A great deal of what is written about the health of Americans revolves around how sedentary we have become. Over 40% of adults in the United States have been found to be obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Almost 10% have been categorized as “severely” obese, and obesity causes a long list of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer. Obesity also costs the economy over $140 billion a year.
At the other end of the spectrum are people who are part of the American health craze. Over 64 million Americans are members of gyms. Large companies like Peloton are built around people who want to be fit. About 15% of Americans run or jog.
The number of active Americans varies considerably by state and by county. Using data from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHR), a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program, 24/7 Wall St. identified the most physically active county in the United States.
In the top 50 counties we considered as the “fittest,” the share of adults who exercise is higher than 85%, compared to 77.3% of adults nationwide. The vast majority of these counties are located in western states, including 15 in Colorado alone.
Given the benefits associated with regular exercise, it is perhaps not surprising that overall health outcomes are often better in the places we considered. In these, a larger share of the population is physically active. For example, in the vast majority of counties we looked at, both the obesity rate and the share of adults who report being in fair or poor health are lower than the respective national averages of 29.7% and 16.5%.
The most active county in America is Boulder County, Colorado. Here are the details:
- Adults who exercise: 91.1%
- Population with access to places for physical activity: 96.2% (171st highest)
- Adult obesity rate: 14.3% (fourth lowest)
- Adults with diabetes: 5.5% (24th lowest)
- Adults reporting poor or fair health: 11.2% (27th lowest)
- Physically unhealthy days per month: 3 (67th lowest)
Methodology: To determine America’s most active county 24/7 Wall St. reviewed adult physical inactivity rates from the CHR. The physical inactivity rate is defined as the share of adults 20 years and older who report no leisure-time physical activity. While the CHR report is from 2021, physical inactivity figures published in the report are from 2017.
Of the 3,220 counties or county-equivalents, 3,142 had boundaries that fell within one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia. Counties with a 2019 five-year population estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau of less than 1,000 were excluded.
The remaining 3,106 places were ranked based on the adult physical inactivity rate. Additional information on the share of the population with adequate access to locations for physical activity, the share of adults 20 years and older who report a body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher (considered obese), the share of adults 20 years and older with diagnosed diabetes, the share of adults reporting poor or fair health, and the average number of physically unhealthy days reported in the past 30 days also came from the 2021 CHR.