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

By David Cusick
Bicycle sport in marina bay area

 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, StateOverall ScoreActive Population RankExercise Availability Rank
1New York, NY39.2721
2Los Angeles, CA38202
3San Francisco, CA34.137
4Anaheim, CA33.865
5Seattle, WA32.149
6Jersey City, NJ31.1623
7Boston, MA29.8486
8Philadelphia, PA29.6614
9Oakland, CA29.41211
10Chicago, IL28.4358
11Denver, CO27.61714
12Long Beach, CA26.92115
13Washington, DC264112
14Santa Ana, CA25.9721
15Minneapolis, MN25.42517
16San Jose, CA25.2131
17San Diego, CA25.1922
18Miami, FL24.77410
19Portland, OR24.61819
20Aurora, CO22.92226
21Irvine, CA22.7839
22Atlanta, GA22.53720
23Hialeah, FL227516
24Pittsburgh, PA21.93029
25Newark, NJ21.98813
26Madison, WI21.7253
27Milwaukee, WI20.65028
28Honolulu, HI20.53432
29Chula Vista, CA20.41050
30Fremont, CA201347
31Sacramento, CA19.91448
32Buffalo, NY19.55827
33Dallas, TX198218
34St. Louis, MO18.87024
35Austin, TX18.54040
36Richmond, VA18.45538
37New Orleans, LA18.43942
38Phoenix, AZ18.44241
39Fresno, CA18.32756
40Baltimore, MD18.38023
41Cleveland, OH18.26434
42Houston, TX18.27625
43Orlando, FL18.16336
44Saint Paul, MN17.77130
45Riverside, CA17.73649
46Spokane, WA17.61565
47Glendale, AZ17.54346
48Cincinnati, OH17.35443
49St. Petersburg, FL17.13358
50Boise, ID16.81177
51Mesa, AZ16.84454
52Scottsdale, AZ16.74555
53Tampa, FL16.67933
54Albuquerque, NM16.52867
55Plano, TX16.46044
56Detroit, MI15.99037
57Anchorage, AK15.8598
58Lincoln, NE15.82474
59Irving, TX15.79435
60Durham, NC15.62676
61Tucson, AZ15.53866
62Stockton, CA15.53170
63Colorado Springs, CO15.41985
64Columbus, OH15.35957
65Reno, NV15.12388
66Omaha, NE155364
67Greensboro, NC14.91692
68Raleigh, NC14.73278
69Gilbert, AZ14.64668
70Virginia Beach, VA14.52990
71Chandler, AZ144772
72Kansas City, MO146861
73Garland, TX148745
74Charlotte, NC13.75273
75Lexington, KY13.15182
76Fort Worth, TX12.78660
77Arlington, TX12.69551
78El Paso, TX12.66771
79Nashville, TN12.44994
80Las Vegas, NV12.38362
81Norfolk, VA11.98963
82San Antonio, TX11.89752
83Louisville, KY11.76683
84Wichita, KS11.56589
85Toledo, OH119859
86Lubbock, TX10.66991
87Fort Wayne, IN10.65796
88Bakersfield, CA10.28180
89Indianapolis, IN10.27887
90Winston–Salem, NC105699
91North Las Vegas, NV9.98486
92Baton Rouge, LA9.89375
93Tulsa, OK9.89669
94Oklahoma City, OK9.77793
95Memphis, TN9.49184
96Henderson, NV8.48597
97Chesapeake, VA8.273100
98Jacksonville, FL8.19295
99Corpus Christi, TX5.99979
100Laredo, TX4.910081

Summary

Our analysis found that New York City 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, Chicago, Houston, and Phoenix. 

The cities you may not want to live in if you enjoy an active lifestyle include Laredo, TX, Corpus Christi, TX, Jacksonville, FL, Chesapeake, VA, and Henderson, NV.

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

Sources

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