It’s easy to simply aspire to become the best and fittest versions of ourselves. Actually achieving that goal is much more difficult, and requires a consistently active lifestyle. The road to an active lifestyle can be filled with obstacles, sometimes because where we live may be failing to promote a healthy way of life. Some cities, for instance, lack sidewalks or neighborhood parks while others encourage few fitness centers to open for business.
It’s no wonder “lose weight and exercise more” top the list of the most popular New Year’s resolutions in America. At the same time, as many as 92 percent of people fail to keep their resolutions each year.
With New Year self-improvement in mind, WalletHub compared the 100 biggest U.S. cities based on 38 key indicators of an active lifestyle. Our data set ranges from average monthly fitness-club fee to bike score to share of physically inactive adults. Read on for the complete ranking, additional insight from our panel of experts and a full description of our methodology.
Best & Worst Cities for an Active Lifestyle
(1 = Best)
|‘Budget & Participation’ Rank||‘Sports & Outdoors’ Rank|
|3||San Francisco, CA||58.70||38||3|
|4||San Diego, CA||56.96||29||5|
|5||New York, NY||56.49||74||4|
|17||Los Angeles, CA||49.53||26||16|
|24||St. Louis, MO||46.11||1||45|
|28||St. Paul, MN||44.52||42||23|
|29||Las Vegas, NV||44.45||14||35|
|32||San Jose, CA||43.79||56||24|
|40||Colorado Springs, CO||41.79||45||39|
|42||Virginia Beach, VA||41.18||61||38|
|47||Long Beach, CA||40.45||22||53|
|51||New Orleans, LA||38.39||32||59|
|55||San Antonio, TX||38.08||59||51|
|59||El Paso, TX||37.30||43||63|
|61||Baton Rouge, LA||36.86||35||66|
|63||Fort Wayne, IN||36.37||30||75|
|66||St. Petersburg, FL||35.77||73||62|
|70||Kansas City, MO||35.07||69||65|
|74||Santa Ana, CA||33.81||16||91|
|78||Fort Worth, TX||32.85||89||70|
|83||Jersey City, NJ||31.90||84||79|
|84||Oklahoma City, OK||31.74||64||87|
|85||Chula Vista, CA||31.67||77||82|
|88||Corpus Christi, TX||30.64||91||85|
|94||San Bernardino, CA||29.43||87||96|
|100||North Las Vegas, NV||23.29||100||95|
Ask the Experts
Maintaining an active lifestyle not only improves quality of life, but it can also help prevent certain illnesses and cut down on medical costs. Promoting healthy choices, however, requires a group effort. We asked a panel of experts to share their advice on introducing positive changes both at home and at the policy level. Click on the experts’ profiles to read their bios and responses to the following key questions:
- How can local communities encourage and facilitate active lifestyles among residents?
- Does the presence of professional sports teams in a city encourage residents to be more active? Should cities subsidize professional sports franchises through tax incentives and facilities?
- How can we increase access to and use of gyms and recreational facilities? Would incentives, such as tax deductions for gym memberships or penalties such as higher health care premiums, be more effective?
- What tips do you have for someone looking to maintain an active lifestyle on a budget?
- How can parents encourage children to be active in order to combat obesity?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine the best cities for an active lifestyle, WalletHub compared the 100 most populated U.S. cities across two key dimensions, “Budget & Participation” and “Sports & Outdoors.”
We evaluated those dimensions using 38 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for a physically active population. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), we used the square root of the population to calculate the population size in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.
Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its Active Lifestyle Score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample. In determining our sample, we considered only the city proper in each case, excluding cities in the surrounding metro area.
Budget & Participation – Total Points: 30
- Average Monthly Fitness-Club Fee: Double Weight (~5.45 Points)
- Average Cost of Sports Apparel: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
Note: This metric considers the average price of a pair of running shoes as a proxy for the cost of sports apparel.
- Average Bowling Cost: Half Weight (~1.36 Points)
- Average Cost of Tennis-Court Rent: Half Weight (~1.36 Points)
Note: “Average Cost” is for one hour of rent during the weekend.
- Sporting-Goods Stores per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Sports Clubs per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Share of Physically Inactive Adults: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Share of Workers 16 Years and Over Who Bike or Walk to Work: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Intramural Leagues per Capita: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Pick-Up Soccer Meetups per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Presence in Fitbit’s ‘Fittest Cities in America’ Ranking: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
Sports & Outdoors – Total Points: 70
- Basketball Hoops per Capita*: Double Weight (~4.06 Points)
- Baseball & Softball Diamonds per Capita*: Double Weight (~4.06 Points)
- Soccer Fields per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
- Swimming Pools per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
- Tennis Courts per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
- Volleyball Nets per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
- Public Golf Courses per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
- Ice-Skating Rinks per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
- Skateboard Parks per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
- Dance Schools per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
- Swimming Lessons Opportunities per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
- Bike Score: Double Weight (~4.06 Points)
- Bike-Rental Facilities per Capita*: Half Weight (~1.01 Points)
- Presence of Bike-Sharing Programs: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
- Fitness Centers per Capita*: Double Weight (~4.06 Points)
- Fitness Trainers & Aerobics Instructors per Capita: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
- Playgrounds per Capita*: Double Weight (~4.06 Points)
- Parkland Acres per Capita: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
- Walk Score: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
- Hiking Trails per Capita*: Double Weight (~4.06 Points)
- Running Trails per Capita*: Double Weight (~4.06 Points)
- Walking Trails per Capita*: Double Weight (~4.06 Points)
- Proximity to Ski Resort: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
- Proximity to Major Lake/Ocean: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
- Access to Exercise Opportunities: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
Note: Access to Exercise Opportunities measures the percentage of individuals in a county who live reasonably close to a location for physical activity. Locations for physical activity are defined as parks or recreational facilities. Individuals are considered to have access to exercise opportunities if they:
- reside in a census block that is within a half mile of a park, or
- reside in an urban census block that is within one mile of a recreational facility, or
- reside in a rural census block that is within three miles of a recreational facility.
- Weather: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Cities with the Best & Worst Weather” ranking.
- Air Quality: Full Weight (~2.03 Points)
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Council for Community and Economic Research, United States Environmental Protection Agency, County Health Rankings, White Book of Ski Areas, Numbeo, IMLeagues, Trust for Public Land, Meetup, Yelp, Walk Score, CycleHop, publiccourses.com, Fitbit, Under Armour and WalletHub research.