Obesity in the United States is rising, but so is physical activity. More than 54% of adults report meeting the recommended federal guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of rigorous physical activity a week. This is up from just over 42% in 2007.
On average, 23% of adults in the country don’t regularly engage in any leisure physical activity. The share of inactive adults and those who exercise regularly varies greatly from city to city, but there is one emerging trend: metropolitan areas in Western states from California to Colorado have relatively lower shares of adults who do not to exercise outside of work.
The most physically active cities are clustered in a few regions. Six of the 10 cities where the highest shares of adults exercise are either in Colorado or Oregon. In contrast, the 10 cities where the lowest percentage of adults are physically active are all in the South.
Even little time spent exercising is better than none. The share of adult residents with a body mass index higher than 30 is notably higher in metropolitan areas where people are less active. Of the 50 cities on this list, the adult obesity rate is higher than the national rate of approximately 28% in only four.
Similarly, the average number of physically unhealthy days over the course of a month reported by adults who live in cities where the highest share of adults are active also tends to be lower than the national average of 3.7 days per month.
In cities where the highest share of adults exercise regularly, residents also tend to feel healthier. In these cities, a lower share of adults report being in poor or fair health than the 16% of adults who do nationwide. The opposite tends to be true in cities where a higher share of adults are physically inactive.
To determine the cities getting the most exercise, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the share of adults who are physically active in the 381 metro areas in the United States. The measure comes from the most recent 2018 dataset collected by County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Obesity rates — the share of adult residents who report a body mass index of 30 or greater — and the share of adults who have access to exercise facilities also come from County Health Rankings. 2017 population figures come from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The number of fitness and recreational sports facilities that feature exercise and other active physical fitness conditioning per 100,000 people came from the Census’ County Business Patterns.
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