Recent public health crises, namely the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid epidemic, have overshadowed a longer-standing problem in the United States — obesity. Since the early 1960s, the share of American adults under age 75 who are considered obese more than tripled. Currently, an estimated 72.2 million Americans age 20 and up are obese, or 29.7% of the age group.
Obesity status is determined by body mass index, or BMI — a ratio of height to body weight. Americans with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese. Obesity increases the risk of diabetes, stroke, hypertension, heart disease, breathing problems, certain cancers, and mortality, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity can also detract from overall quality of life and contribute to depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
While the U.S. has one of the highest obesity rates in the world, there are parts of the country where obesity remains relatively uncommon. Using data from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, 24/7 Tempo identified the least obese metropolitan areas in the United States.
The majority of metro areas on this list are located in the West, including 11 in California and five in Colorado.
Though many factors, including genetics, diet, and medical conditions, contribute to increased risk of obesity, regular physical activity is one of the best ways to help maintain a healthy weight. In all but a handful of metro areas on this list, the share of adults who do not exercise regularly is below the 22.7% share of adults nationwide. Here is a look at the most physically active cities in America.
By some measures, health outcomes are better than average in most of these metro areas as well. For example, obesity is a leading risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, and in nearly all of the metros on this list, diabetes is less common than it is nationwide.
To determine America’s least obese metros, 24/7 Tempo reviewed county-level adult obesity rates from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program’s 2021 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report.
The adult obesity rate is defined as the share of adults 20 years and older who report a body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher. We aggregated county-level statistics to metropolitan statistical areas. While the CHR report is from 2021, obesity rate figures are from 2017.
We used the 384 metropolitan statistical areas as delineated by the United States Office of Management and Budget and used by the Census Bureau as our definition of metros.
Metros were ranked based on the adult obesity rate. Additional information on the share of adults that report no leisure time physical activity, the share of adults that are diagnosed with diabetes, and the share of adults that report fair or poor health are also from the 2021 CHR.