The Best and Worst Cities in the U.S. for Exercise

By David Cusick
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At House Method, we tend to write about ways to make home ownership a little easier and a little less stressful by providing expert reviews on things like the top home warranty companies. However, we know that exercise is another great way to improve your quality of life. Not all cities are created equal when it comes to health and fitness. Some cities have tons of running and walking trails and some cities have boutique gyms on every corner. If you are a gym junkie or exercise fanatic you probably would prefer to live somewhere that has like-minded people, lots of gym options, and an all around healthy vibe. 

With that in mind, House Method put together this study on the best cities for exercise. We analyzed the data for the 100 largest U.S. cities and ranked them according to 5 factors, such as gyms per capita, percent of people who exercise frequently, walk score, and more. Read on for the complete rankings and explanation of methodology. 

Main Findings

Overall Rank (1 = better)

City, State

Overall Score

Active Population Rank

Exercise Availability Rank

1

New York, NY

39.2

72

1

2

Los Angeles, CA

38

20

2

3

San Francisco, CA

34.1

3

7

4

Anaheim, CA

33.8

6

5

5

Seattle, WA

32.1

4

9

6

Jersey City, NJ

31.1

62

3

7

Boston, MA

29.8

48

6

8

Philadelphia, PA

29.6

61

4

9

Oakland, CA

29.4

12

11

10

Chicago, IL

28.4

35

8

11

Denver, CO

27.6

17

14

12

Long Beach, CA

26.9

21

15

13

Washington, DC

26

41

12

14

Santa Ana, CA

25.9

7

21

15

Minneapolis, MN

25.4

25

17

16

San Jose, CA

25.2

1

31

17

San Diego, CA

25.1

9

22

18

Miami, FL

24.7

74

10

19

Portland, OR

24.6

18

19

20

Aurora, CO

22.9

22

26

21

Irvine, CA

22.7

8

39

22

Atlanta, GA

22.5

37

20

23

Hialeah, FL

22

75

16

24

Pittsburgh, PA

21.9

30

29

25

Newark, NJ

21.9

88

13

26

Madison, WI

21.7

2

53

27

Milwaukee, WI

20.6

50

28

28

Honolulu, HI

20.5

34

32

29

Chula Vista, CA

20.4

10

50

30

Fremont, CA

20

13

47

31

Sacramento, CA

19.9

14

48

32

Buffalo, NY

19.5

58

27

33

Dallas, TX

19

82

18

34

St. Louis, MO

18.8

70

24

35

Austin, TX

18.5

40

40

36

Richmond, VA

18.4

55

38

37

New Orleans, LA

18.4

39

42

38

Phoenix, AZ

18.4

42

41

39

Fresno, CA

18.3

27

56

40

Baltimore, MD

18.3

80

23

41

Cleveland, OH

18.2

64

34

42

Houston, TX

18.2

76

25

43

Orlando, FL

18.1

63

36

44

Saint Paul, MN

17.7

71

30

45

Riverside, CA

17.7

36

49

46

Spokane, WA

17.6

15

65

47

Glendale, AZ

17.5

43

46

48

Cincinnati, OH

17.3

54

43

49

St. Petersburg, FL

17.1

33

58

50

Boise, ID

16.8

11

77

51

Mesa, AZ

16.8

44

54

52

Scottsdale, AZ

16.7

45

55

53

Tampa, FL

16.6

79

33

54

Albuquerque, NM

16.5

28

67

55

Plano, TX

16.4

60

44

56

Detroit, MI

15.9

90

37

57

Anchorage, AK

15.8

5

98

58

Lincoln, NE

15.8

24

74

59

Irving, TX

15.7

94

35

60

Durham, NC

15.6

26

76

61

Tucson, AZ

15.5

38

66

62

Stockton, CA

15.5

31

70

63

Colorado Springs, CO

15.4

19

85

64

Columbus, OH

15.3

59

57

65

Reno, NV

15.1

23

88

66

Omaha, NE

15

53

64

67

Greensboro, NC

14.9

16

92

68

Raleigh, NC

14.7

32

78

69

Gilbert, AZ

14.6

46

68

70

Virginia Beach, VA

14.5

29

90

71

Chandler, AZ

14

47

72

72

Kansas City, MO

14

68

61

73

Garland, TX

14

87

45

74

Charlotte, NC

13.7

52

73

75

Lexington, KY

13.1

51

82

76

Fort Worth, TX

12.7

86

60

77

Arlington, TX

12.6

95

51

78

El Paso, TX

12.6

67

71

79

Nashville, TN

12.4

49

94

80

Las Vegas, NV

12.3

83

62

81

Norfolk, VA

11.9

89

63

82

San Antonio, TX

11.8

97

52

83

Louisville, KY

11.7

66

83

84

Wichita, KS

11.5

65

89

85

Toledo, OH

11

98

59

86

Lubbock, TX

10.6

69

91

87

Fort Wayne, IN

10.6

57

96

88

Bakersfield, CA

10.2

81

80

89

Indianapolis, IN

10.2

78

87

90

Winston–Salem, NC

10

56

99

91

North Las Vegas, NV

9.9

84

86

92

Baton Rouge, LA

9.8

93

75

93

Tulsa, OK

9.8

96

69

94

Oklahoma City, OK

9.7

77

93

95

Memphis, TN

9.4

91

84

96

Henderson, NV

8.4

85

97

97

Chesapeake, VA

8.2

73

100

98

Jacksonville, FL

8.1

92

95

99

Corpus Christi, TX

5.9

99

79

100

Laredo, TX

4.9

100

81

Summary

Our analysis found that New York City, New York is the best city for exercise, which may not come as a surprise to a lot of people given the amount of gyms and the fact that New Yorkers walk practically everywhere. It scored high for the amount of gyms per capita and topped the charts for walkability. Rounding out the rest of the top five cities are Los Angeles, California, Chicago, Illinois, Houston, Texas, and Phoenix, Arizona.

The cities you may not want to live in if you enjoy an active lifestyle include Laredo, Texas, Corpus Christi, Texas, Jacksonville, Florida, Chesapeake, Virginia, and Henderson, Nevada.

Read more: Our detailed Choice Home Warranty review

Methodology

To find the best and worst cities for exercise, we looked at data for the 100 largest cities in the United States. We ranked the cities using two categories:

  1. Active population
  2. Exercise availability

In all, there were five factors across those two larger categories that are listed below along with their corresponding weights. Each city was graded on an 50-point scale, with a score of 50 representing the ideal city for exercise

Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all categories to calculate its Overall Score and used the results to rank-order our sample.

Active population — 15 points

  • Percent of people in city exercise frequently — Full Weight
  • Percent of people in city who do aerobic activities — Half Weight

Exercise availability — 35 points

  • Gyms per capita — 1.5 Weight
  • Number of 5K running events per capita — Half Weight
  • Walk score — 1.5 Weight

Read more: Comprehensive American Home Shield review

Sources

  • American Fitness Index
  • Yelp
  • RunSignUp
  • Walkscore.com

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