When it comes to exercising, residents of a few cities are leading the pack. Nationally, the share of adults who meet or exceed federal exercise guidelines — 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week – is on the rise. Nearly 25% of adults Americans met the requirements in 2017, compared to just over 18% a decade earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While this is encouraging news, not all cities boast high exercise rates.
24/7 Tempo reviewed data on leisure exercise and access to places for physical activity from the 2019 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report to determine the cities with the lowest rates of regular exercise. About 22.2% of adult Americans report that they do not get any physical activity in their leisure time.
Five of the 10 cities with the lowest share of adults who work out or engage in any physical activity in their free time are in Alabama. In fact, many of the cities where the fewest percentage of adults are exercising are in the South. Similarly, the cities where most people engage in physical activity are also concentrated in one region of the country — these are the 50 most physically active cities in America.
Exercise has been shown to be a crucial factor in maintaining a healthy weight as it helps burn body fat and build muscle tissue. Physical activity is also linked to better quality of life as well as living longer. Some research shows that even just 15 minutes a day of physical activity provides benefits, including lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some common types of cancer.
Consistent lack of exercise appears to play a role in certain unhealthy outcomes. Of the 50 cities that get the least exercise, only three have an adult obesity rate that is lower than the national rate of 28.5%. Only one city — Williamsport, Pennsylvania — has a lower share of the adult population reporting being in poor or fair health than the U.S. share of 16.0%.
Income also appears to be a factor in whether people spend time exercising. Of the 50 cities where the lowest share of adults exercise, only one has median annual household income higher the national median of nearly $62,000. Wealthier people are more likely to exercise as they have more money to spare on gym memberships and working out apparel.