Best & Worst Cities for Active Lifestyles Revealed


It’s that time of year, when list after list ranks which cities are healthiest or “most active,” and which cities are not.

The latest list comes from WalletHub, and it ranks “2017’s Best & Worst Cities for an Active Lifestyle.” 

The top five best cities for an active lifestyle are: Madison, Wisconsin; Boise, Idaho; Scottsdale, Arizona; Portland, Oregon; and Orlando, Florida.

Conversely, the top five worst cities are: Memphis, Tennessee; Laredo, Texas; North Las Vegas, Nevada; Dallas, Texas; and New York.

For the full list of cities rated from No. 1 to 100, click here.

Source: WalletHub


WalletHub ranked the cities across 30 key metrics, ranging from fitness club fees to bikeability scores to the numbers of sedentary residents.

Madison, Wisconsin’s capitol and the city topping the list, had the most fitness trainers and aerobics instructors per 100,000 residents. The college town had 156.15 instructors per 100,000 people, almost seven times more than Bakersfield, Calif., a desert city with only 23.10 aerobics instructors per 100,000 residents.

One of the many walking paths in Madison, Wisconsin.

Madison also had the most park playgrounds per 100,000 residents – a whopping 72, more than 14 times that of Hialeah, Fla., which had the fewest at 5.11 per 1,000 residents.

“Communities can help promote active lifestyles through programming and infrastructure,” said Jasmin Hutchinson, associate professor of Exercise Science and Sport Studies at Springfield, Massachusetts College, in the WalletHub report. “Specific community factors, such as the availability of parks and walking trails, and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods appear to have an influence on people’s leisure time activities.” 

Leapetswe Malete, associate professor of Sport and Exercise Psychology in the Department of Kinesiology at Michigan State University, said insurance companies could encourage a healthier America by covering the cost of gym memberships.  “I think health insurance should not only focus on curative and disease management, but should have a significant orientation towards prevention,” the report quoted him as saying. “Health insurance premiums could be used to pay for use of gyms and recreational facilities. Certainly, tax deductions for gym membership would be a starting point, but so is child care services to allow many parents who can’t go to the gym to do so.”

Related: Choosing the Right Community Could Help You Live Longer

Matthew Ebbott, senior lecturer in recreation and outdoor education at Western State Colorado University, echoed the sentiments of other experts included in the WalletHub report. He said having professional sports teams in a town really doesn’t have an impact on the community’s physical health.

“Most research does not support any correlation between professional sports franchises and active lifestyles in the community,” he said. “I believe many of the pro sports deals through taxation are a benefit to millionaires and billionaires who could afford, and should pay for, the stadiums and arenas. It must be mentioned however, that major sports franchises in cities do lots of community work and promote youth sports and active adults.”

Related: Your ZIP Code May Influence Your Death as Much as Your Genes

Although Texas generally fared poorly on the list, El Paso had the lowest monthly gym fees of all 100 cities. The highest? San Francisco, New York, and Anchorage, Alaska.

Cleveland had the most swimming pools per capita. The city with the fewest pools is Honolulu, which is rather surprising for a tropical island. Overall, the nation’s pinnacle of paradise landed 27th on the list.

A professional journalist nearly 30 years, David Heitz started his career at the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa before moving to Los Angeles. He led the Glendale News-Press to best small daily newspaper in the state (CNPA) as managing editor and also worked as executive news editor of the Press-Telegram. He worked briefly as deputy news editor of the Detroit News before returning to the Quad-Cities, where he has worked as a freelance medical writer since 2012 for several national websites. He recently purchased his childhood home and says he truly is “living the dream.”