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. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be other difficulties, such as the temporary closures of fitness centers or other public places.
Despite the pandemic, there are plenty of ways to stay active while still practicing social distancing, including taking virtual fitness classes. As we begin a new year, it’s the perfect time to start, too. Two of Americans’ top four New Year’s resolutions are “exercising more” and “losing weight. At the same time, as many as 80% to 91% 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 36 key indicators of an active lifestyle. Our data set ranges from the average monthly fitness-club fee to bike score to the share of physically inactive adults. We also considered factors that might negatively impact people’s ability to stay active this year, like the prevalence of COVID-19.
Best & Worst Cities for an Active Lifestyle
|‘Budget & Participation’||‘Sports & Outdoors’|
|3||San Diego, CA||63.44||3||5|
|4||San Francisco, CA||62.83||40||2|
|9||Los Angeles, CA||54.69||2||16|
|12||New York, NY||53.18||55||9|
|21||San Jose, CA||48.11||31||23|
|26||Las Vegas, NV||46.75||6||43|
|27||Virginia Beach, VA||46.56||42||25|
|35||St. Louis, MO||44.55||12||49|
|42||Colorado Springs, CO||43.67||45||35|
|43||San Antonio, TX||43.13||14||56|
|48||St. Paul, MN||42.21||65||41|
|57||Long Beach, CA||40.04||48||60|
|59||Kansas City, MO||39.94||87||45|
|61||New Orleans, LA||38.01||84||57|
|62||St. Petersburg, FL||37.78||79||62|
|63||El Paso, TX||37.39||29||75|
|71||Chula Vista, CA||35.50||80||67|
|74||Fort Worth, TX||35.27||72||69|
|75||Oklahoma City, OK||34.94||53||80|
|78||Baton Rouge, LA||34.30||71||76|
|82||Fort Wayne, IN||33.58||59||90|
|83||Santa Ana, CA||33.18||90||73|
|91||Corpus Christi, TX||31.17||63||97|
|95||San Bernardino, CA||28.97||97||89|
|97||Jersey City, NJ||27.70||98||94|
|100||North Las Vegas, NV||26.12||100||86|
Note: With the exception of “WalletHub’s Active Lifestyle Score,” all of the columns in the table above depict the relative rank of that city, where a rank of 1 represents the best conditions for that metric category.
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?
- What tips do you have for people who want to maintain a healthy lifestyle until gyms and recreational facilities can fully reopen again?
- 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 36 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 (~6.67 Points)
- Average Cost of Sports Apparel: Full Weight (~3.33 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 (~1.67 Points)
- Average Cost of Tennis-Court Rent: Half Weight (~1.67 Points)
Note: “Average Cost” is for one hour of rent during the weekend.
- Sporting-Goods Stores per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Share of Physically Inactive Adults: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Share of Workers Aged 16 and Over Who Bike or Walk to Work: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Google Search Interest for “At Home Workouts”: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This metric measures the real intent of the population to find information about the following search terms: “Hiit workout,” “Workout at home,” “Ab workouts at home,” “Chest workout at home,” “Leg workouts at home,” “Bodyweight workout,” “Cardio workout at home”. “Real intent” is measured using the average monthly search volumes for those specific terms.
- Google Search Interest for “At Home Sports Equipment”: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This metric measures the real intent of the population to find information about the following search terms: “Dumbbells”, “Resistance bands”, “NordicTrack treadmill”, “Peloton”, “Kettlebell”, “Barbell”, “Home gym,” “Home gym equipment,” “Home workout equipment”. “Real intent” is measured using the average monthly search volumes for those specific terms.
Sports & Outdoors – Total Points: 70
- Basketball Hoops per Capita*: Double Weight (~3.84 Points)
- Baseball & Softball Diamonds per Capita*: Double Weight (~3.84 Points)
- Soccer Fields per Capita*: Full Weight (~1.92 Points)
- Swimming Pools per Capita*: Full Weight (~1.92 Points)
- Tennis Courts per Capita*: Full Weight (~1.92 Points)
- Volleyball Nets per Capita*: Full Weight (~1.92 Points)
- Public Golf Courses per Capita*: Full Weight (~1.92 Points)
- Ice-Skating Rinks per Capita*: Full Weight (~1.92 Points)
- Skateboard Parks per Capita*: Full Weight (~1.92 Points)
- Dance Studios with Virtual Classes per Capita*: Full Weight (~1.92 Points)
- Bike Score: Double Weight (~3.84 Points)
- Bike-Rental Facilities per Capita*: Half Weight (~0.96 Points)
- Presence of Bike-Sharing Programs: Full Weight (~1.92 Points)
- Fitness Centers with Virtual Classes per Capita*: Double Weight (~3.84 Points)
- Fitness Trainers & Aerobics Instructors per Capita: Full Weight (~1.92 Points)
- Playgrounds per Capita*: Double Weight (~3.84 Points)
- Parkland Acres per Capita: Full Weight (~1.92 Points)
- Walk Score: Full Weight (~1.92 Points)
- Hiking Trails per Capita*: Double Weight (~3.84 Points)
- Running Trails per Capita*: Double Weight (~3.84 Points)
- Walking Trails per Capita*: Double Weight (~3.84 Points)
- Proximity to Major Lake/Ocean: Full Weight (~1.92 Points)
- Access to Exercise Opportunities: Full Weight (~1.92 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.
- Average COVID-19 Cases per Capita: Double Weight (~3.84 Points)
- Average COVID-19 Deaths per Capita: Double Weight (~3.84 Points)
- Weather: Full Weight (~1.92 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Cities with the Best & Worst Weather” ranking.
- Air Quality: Full Weight (~1.92 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, Numbeo, Trust for Public Land, Yelp, Walk Score, CycleHop, Under Armour, GolfLink, Google Ads, The New York Times and WalletHub research.