Special Report

American Cities Getting the Most Exercise

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Working out and remaining active are important components of a healthy lifestyle. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise can help control weight, fight certain diseases and conditions, promote better sleep, and improve mood. The message may be getting through as Americans appear to be exercising more every year.

Though awareness of the importance of exercise is widespread, residents of some parts of the country are much more inclined to stay physically active than others. In a handful of cities, such as Beckley, West Virginia, less than two-thirds of the adult population exercises. Meanwhile, in the most active city in the country — Boulder, Colorado — more than 90% of the adult population makes time to exercise. To determine which city populations exercise the most, 24/7 Wall St. created an index based on the share of area residents reporting regular physical activity from County Health Rankings and the number of area gyms per capita from County Business Patterns.

While it is no guarantee that people will exercise regularly, access to locations that facilitate physical activity is important for city residents. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Amanda Jovaag, the County Health Rankings data lead, explained that communities around the country have been working “to make it easier and safer to be active.”

Click here to see the American cities getting the most exercise.

The significant presence of exercise venues has likely helped Boulder’s population become the most active in the country. “There is strong evidence that improving access to places for physical activity increases physical activity,” Jovaag explained. Boulder boasts 20 fitness and recreation centers for every 100,000 people, roughly double the average number of facilities per capita across U.S. metro areas, and more gyms per capita than any other city.

In many of the most active cities, health outcomes tend to be better. While across the country, 27% of adults are obese, the obesity rate in Boulder is only 15%, one of the lowest obesity rates in the country. Of the 50 metro areas with residents that exercise the most, only seven have an obesity rate that exceeds the national rate.

Not only do health outcomes tend to be better in the most active cities, but residents in these cities also tend to subjectively report better health than the average American. All but six of the 50 cities that exercise the most have a smaller share of adults who report fair or poor health than the national share of 16%.

Those who maintain healthy habits such as exercising regularly are also less likely to partake in unhealthy habits. Certain measures such as smoking rates tend to be significantly lower in the most active cities than they are nationwide. Only four of the cities that exercise the most have a higher smoking rate than the 20% national figure: Carson City, Nevada; Kingston, New York; Lewiston, Idaho; and Ocean City, New Jersey.

To identify the 50 cities whose residents exercise the most, 24/7 Wall St. created an index to rank the 381 metro areas in the United States by their level of physical activity and the number of fitness and recreational sports centers per capita. For every metro area, we reviewed the percentage of adults who report engaging in no physical activity during their leisure time to determine the share of the adult population that is physically active, with data from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The number of fitness and recreational sports centers comes from County Business Patterns, a data series produced by the U.S. Census Bureau. Obesity rates also came from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. Smoking rates and the percentage of adults reporting fair or poor health are from the Center for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Population data come from the Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey.

These are the cities that exercise the most.

Billings, Montana

50. Billings
> State:
Montana
> Population: 167,521
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 76.4%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 15
> Obesity rate: 25.7%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 13.2%

Iowa City, Iowa

49. Iowa City
> State:
Iowa
> Population: 164,357
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 82.2%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 11
> Obesity rate: 24.4%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 8.0%

Reno, Nevada

48. Reno
> State:
Nevada
> Population: 444,487
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 84.2%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 10
> Obesity rate: 22.2%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 15.3%

47. Sioux Falls
> State:
South Dakota
> Population: 248,252
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 77.1%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 15
> Obesity rate: 27.6%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 9.3%

Medford, Oregon

46. Medford
> State:
Oregon
> Population: 210,287
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 82.6%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 11
> Obesity rate: 24.7%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 15.1%

Austin, Texas

45. Austin-Round Rock
> State:
Texas
> Population: 1,943,299
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 82.2%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 11
> Obesity rate: 24.1%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 12.9%

San Diego, California

44. San Diego-Carlsbad
> State:
California
> Population: 3,263,431
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 84.7%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 10
> Obesity rate: 22.6%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 16.0%

Appleton, Wisconsin

43. Appleton
> State:
Wisconsin
> Population: 231,497
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 80.9%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 12
> Obesity rate: 29.7%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 9.4%

Washington DC, United States

42. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria
> State:
District of Columbia-Virginia-Maryland-West Virginia
> Population: 6,032,744
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 81.3%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 12
> Obesity rate: 24.4%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 11.6%

Lewiston, Idaho (Snake River)

41. Lewiston
> State:
Idaho-Washington
> Population: 62,196
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 77.7%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 14
> Obesity rate: 31.0%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 17.1%

Raleigh (Wake County), North Carolina

40. Raleigh
> State:
North Carolina
> Population: 1,242,974
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 80.1%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 13
> Obesity rate: 27.0%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 14.6%

Denver, Colorado 3

39. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood
> State:
Colorado
> Population: 2,754,258
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 85.1%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 10
> Obesity rate: 19.9%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 12.2%

Manchester, New Hampshire

38. Manchester-Nashua
> State:
New Hampshire
> Population: 405,184
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 78.8%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 14
> Obesity rate: 27.2%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 11.1%

Santa Fe, New Mexico

37. Santa Fe
> State:
New Mexico
> Population: 148,164
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 88.1%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 9
> Obesity rate: 14.2%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 14.5%

Lincoln, Nebraska

36. Lincoln
> State:
Nebraska
> Population: 320,227
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 81.0%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 12
> Obesity rate: 26.4%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 9.7%

Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, South Carolina

35. Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort
> State:
South Carolina
> Population: 203,022
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 82.3%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 12
> Obesity rate: 24.3%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 10.9%

Santa Barbara, California

34. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara
> State:
California
> Population: 440,668
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 86.1%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 10
> Obesity rate: 19.4%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 21.0%

Burlington (Chittenden County), Vermont

33. Burlington-South Burlington
> State:
Vermont
> Population: 215,824
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 83.6%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 12
> Obesity rate: 23.0%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 9.1%

Minneapolis, Minnesota

32. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington
> State:
Minnesota
> Population: 3,495,176
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 82.1%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 12
> Obesity rate: 25.0%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 9.9%

Ocean City, New Jersey

31. Ocean City
> State:
New Jersey
> Population: 95,344
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 76.6%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 17
> Obesity rate: 26.3%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 13.5%

Eugene, Oregon

30. Eugene
> State:
Oregon
> Population: 358,337
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 84.8%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 11
> Obesity rate: 28.1%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 14.2%

29. Durham-Chapel Hill
> State:
North Carolina
> Population: 542,710
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 80.0%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 14
> Obesity rate: 26.8%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 15.4%

Kingston, New York

28. Kingston
> State:
New York
> Population: 180,445
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 81.3%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 13
> Obesity rate: 27.0%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 12.1%

Carson City, Nevada

27. Carson City
> State:
Nevada
> Population: 54,522
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 82.1%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 13
> Obesity rate: 23.0%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 17.7%

Seattle (King County), Washington

26. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue
> State:
Washington
> Population: 3,671,478
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 83.3%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 12
> Obesity rate: 25.5%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 12.1%

San Jose, California

25. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara
> State:
California
> Population: 1,952,872
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 84.5%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 12
> Obesity rate: 20.5%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 13.7%

San Francisco, Golden Gate, California

24. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward
> State:
California
> Population: 4,594,060
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 84.8%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 12
> Obesity rate: 19.8%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 13.9%

Ann Arbor, Michigan

23. Ann Arbor
> State:
Michigan
> Population: 356,874
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 83.0%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 13
> Obesity rate: 23.6%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 9.6%

Portland-South Portland, Maine

22. Portland-South Portland
> State:
Maine
> Population: 523,552
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 82.5%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 13
> Obesity rate: 24.0%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 10.7%

Columbia, Missouri

21. Columbia
> State:
Missouri
> Population: 172,717
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 79.0%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 16
> Obesity rate: 24.2%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 10.8%

Ames, Iowa

20. Ames
> State:
Iowa
> Population: 94,073
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 80.6%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 15
> Obesity rate: 25.4%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 6.4%

Santa Rosa, California

19. Santa Rosa
> State:
California
> Population: 500,292
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 87.7%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 11
> Obesity rate: 22.4%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 14.4%

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

18. Coeur d’Alene
> State:
Idaho
> Population: 147,326
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 82.5%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 14
> Obesity rate: 24.6%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 12.7%

Dubuque, Iowa

17. Dubuque
> State:
Iowa
> Population: 96,370
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 79.5%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 17
> Obesity rate: 28.6%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 9.7%

St. George, Utah

16. St. George
> State:
Utah
> Population: 151,948
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 82.3%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 14
> Obesity rate: 22.6%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 12.0%

Wenatchee, Washington

15. Wenatchee
> State:
Washington
> Population: 114,392
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 82.2%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 15
> Obesity rate: 26.0%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 15.5%

St. Cloud, Minnesota

14. St. Cloud
> State:
Minnesota
> Population: 192,418
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 80.9%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 16
> Obesity rate: 27.5%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 10.3%

Downtown Redmond Oregon

13. Bend-Redmond
> State:
Oregon
> Population: 170,388
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 85.0%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 13
> Obesity rate: 23.0%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 8.7%

Boston, Massachusetts

12. Boston-Cambridge-Newton
> State:
Massachusetts-New Hampshire
> Population: 4,732,161
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 79.4%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 18
> Obesity rate: 23.2%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 11.7%

Downtown Bellingham, Washington

11. Bellingham
> State:
Washington
> Population: 208,351
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 83.8%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 15
> Obesity rate: 25.1%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 11.4%

Madison, Wisconsin

10. Madison
> State:
Wisconsin
> Population: 633,787
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 82.0%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 17
> Obesity rate: 23.4%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 9.3%

Missoula, Montana

9. Missoula
> State:
Montana
> Population: 112,684
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 83.0%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 16
> Obesity rate: 21.1%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 11.4%

8. Fort Collins
> State:
Colorado
> Population: 324,122
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 87.8%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 13
> Obesity rate: 19.9%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 10.3%

Corvallis, Oregon

7. Corvallis
> State:
Oregon
> Population: 86,316
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 84.7%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 15
> Obesity rate: 20.8%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 11.3%

San Luis Obispo, California

6. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande
> State:
California
> Population: 279,083
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 86.4%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 14
> Obesity rate: 20.4%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 11.6%

Bridgeport, Connecticut

5. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk
> State:
Connecticut
> Population: 945,438
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 80.2%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 19
> Obesity rate: 19.6%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 10.0%

Napa, California

4. Napa
> State:
California
> Population: 141,667
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 86.8%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 15
> Obesity rate: 24.1%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 16.7%

Barnstable Town, Massachusetts

3. Barnstable Town
> State:
Massachusetts
> Population: 214,914
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 82.7%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 18
> Obesity rate: 18.3%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 8.3%

Santa Cruz, California

2. Santa Cruz-Watsonville
> State:
California
> Population: 271,804
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 89.6%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 14
> Obesity rate: 21.5%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 16.8%

Boulder, Colorado

1. Boulder
> State:
Colorado
> Population: 313,333
> Pct. of city residents reporting physical activity: 90.3%
> Fitness centers per 100,000 residents: 20
> Obesity rate: 15.0%
> Pct. of adults reporting fair/poor health: 9.1%

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