Special Report

The 50 Most Physically Active Cities in America

The share of adults nationwide 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 a quarter of adult Americans met the requirements in 2017, compared to just over 18% a decade earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The news is encouraging, and residents of several cities are leading the pack.

24/7 Tempo reviewed data on physical activity in all 382 metro areas in the U.S.  from the 2021 report by the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, to determine the cities with the highest shares of people exercising on a regular basis. About 77.3% of adult Americans report they are physically active in their leisure time.

There is one emerging trend. Metropolitan areas in Western states have relatively higher shares of adults who report regular leisure-time physical activity. Such activity includes working out and other activities people engage in outside of work and in their free time.

Fourteen of the 20 cities where the highest shares of adults exercise are either in California, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. In contrast, many cities where the lowest percentage of adults are physically active are in the South.

Even little time spent exercising is better than none. The share of adult residents who are overweight or obese is notably higher in metropolitan areas where people are less active. In only five of the 50 most active cities, the adult obesity rate is higher than the national rate of 29.7%.

In cities where the highest share of adults exercise regularly, residents also tend to feel healthier. Of the 50 cities on this list, just 11 cities have a higher share of adults reporting being in poor or fair health than the 16.5% of adults nationwide who do. The opposite tends to be true in cities where a higher share of adults who don’t exercise.

Income also may be a factor in whether people spend time working out. Wealthier people are more likely to exercise perhaps because they can afford gym memberships and working out apparel. Of the 50 cities where the highest share of people are physically active, only 16 have a median household income below the national median of over $65,000. 

One of the most accessible exercises, which also happens to be completely free — is walking. It’s easy to forget that walking is actually an aerobic activity — here are 30 reasons why walking is the best exercise.

Click here to see the 50 most physically active cities in America

To determine the most active cities in the U.S, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the most recent 2021 dataset collected by County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. All 382 U.S. metro areas were considered. 

Obesity rates — the share of adult residents who report a body mass index of 30 or greater — as well as prevalence of diabetes, access to places for physical activities such as gyms, share of adult population who report being in poor or fair health, and the number of physically unhealthy days a month on average also came from 2021 CHR. 

Population figures, as well as median household income came from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2019 1-Year Estimates.

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