The Best and Worst Cities for an Active Lifestyle

Cities Rated for Active Lifestyle


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Cities Rated for Active Lifestyle

Cities on the Move

Each year, Americans' lists of New Year's resolutions are topped by a desire to lose weight and exercise more. And after a year spent cooped up and socially distancing amid a pandemic, those goals may be more important than ever. Yet nearly all of us fail at those goals. When it comes to physical fitness, where you live can be part of the challenge. WalletHub studied 100 cities across the country to identify which urban centers best support residents who want to be more active as well as which cities make it easy to take a pass on physical fitness goals. The study is based on 38 key indicators that support an active lifestyle, such as average monthly fitness-club fees, the availability of parks and walking trails, weather, and other criteria. Here are the 10 cities that make it easiest to live an active lifestyle, and 10 where it can be the most challenging.

Related: Get Healthy in the New Year: Resolutions for 2021

Best for Active Lifestyles: Washington, D.C.

10th Best for an Active Lifestyle: Washington, D.C.

Once again this year, the nation's capital rounds out the top 10 cities where an active lifestyle is entirely within reach. If you don't mind the political culture (which can be challenging), Washington ties for No. 1 with four other cities for having the most swimming pools per capita, and also for the most tennis courts per capita.

santa monica beach

9th Best: Los Angeles

Los Angeles is a newcomer to the top 10 this year. A Southern California city with largely favorable weather, there's certainly plenty of opportunity to get outside. The city also earned the stellar slot of No. 2 for “Budget and Participation.”

Related: How Functional Fitness Can Keep You Active and Pain-Free at Any Age

Best for Active Lifestyles: Denver

8th Best: Denver

Denver, also known as the Mile-High City, inched up one place from its No. 9 slot last year. It's also No. 5 for “Budget and Participation,” which is very respectable.

austin texas running

7th Best: Austin

Austin is another newcomer to the top 10 this year. It also ranks among the top 10 for both the “Budget and Participation” ranking and the “Sports and Outdoors” ranking, coming in at No. 8 in both cases.

Best for Active Lifestyles: Seattle

6th Best: Seattle

Moving up one notch from last year, Seattle also ranks notably well in the “Sports and Outdoors” category, at No. 3 and it leads the nation with the most fitness centers that have virtual classrooms per capita and lowest percentage of physically inactive residents. Way to go, Seattle.

Best for Active Lifestyles: Chicago

5th Best: Chicago

Down three positions from last year's ranking, Chicago residents manage to stay active despite having a less-than-ideal climate during certain times of the year. The city ranks No. 2 for most swimming pools per capita in the nation and No. 4 for most basketball hoops per capita.

Related: Indoor Pools in All 50 States to Make You Forget It's Winter

Best for Active Lifestyles: San Francisco

4th Best: San Francisco

A city that came in at No. 3 on the overall list last year, San Francisco this year comes in No. 2 in the study in the “Sports and Outdoors” category, which is based on such factors as basketball hoops per capita; baseball and softball diamonds per capita; soccer fields per capita, and swimming pools per capita. San Francisco is also No. 4 for most fitness centers with virtual classes per capita, clearly a big bonus amid a global pandemic.

Related: The Best Online Fitness Programs for Older Adults

Best for Active Lifestyles: San Diego

3rd Best: San Diego

Even amid a pandemic, it's still entirely possible to remain active in San Diego, a Southern California city with endless days of sunshine and abundant walking, hiking and biking opportunities. In fact, San Diego moved up one slot in this year's overall ranking.

Related: The Best Bike Trails in All 50 States

Best for Active Lifestyles: Portland

2nd Best: Portland

Rising four slots from its No. 6 rank last year, Portland also notably came in No. 1 in the “Budget and Participation” category, which takes into account such factors as Google search interest for “at home workouts,” average monthly fitness club fees, average cost of sports apparel, average cost of tennis court rentals, sporting goods stores per capita, and share of physically inactive adults.

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Best for Active Lifestyles: Honolulu

Best City for an Active Lifestyle: Honolulu

Once again, Honolulu tops the list of cities that are best for an active lifestyle. It also claimed the top spot in the study's "Sports and Outdoors" ranking for yet another year, which is based on such things as availability of sports and fitness facilities, parkland, walking trails, playgrounds, and more. The city also scored No. 1 for the most tennis courts per capita.

Related: The Best of Hawaii on a Budget

 Corpus Christi, Texas

10th Worst: Corpus Christi, Texas

A newcomer to the worst 10 cities for an active lifestyle, Corpus Christi loses points in the study for having the fewest public golf courses per capita of any of the cities studied. On the bright side, the city comes in at No. 2 in the nation for lowest monthly fitness club fees.

Birmingham, Alabama
Sean Pavone/istockphoto
Worst for Active Lifestyles: Bakersfield, California

8th Worst: Bakersfield, California

Well, the good news for Bakersfield is it improved several slots this year from its previous ranking of No. 98. The bad news is, it's still among the least active cities in the country. Sometimes referred to as the oil capital of California, Bakersfield is also second worst in the country (No 98 out of 100) when it comes to "Sports and Outdoor" opportunities. 

Worst for Active Lifestyles: Irving, Texas

7th Worst: Irving, Texas

Irving remains among the worst again this year, moving up slightly from its No. 95 position in 2020. The city loses points in particular for having the fewest tennis courts per capita (coming in No. 91 out of 100) and fewest basketball hoops per capita (No. 97).

San Bernardino, California

6th Worst: San Bernardino, California

San Bernardino lands among the worst in the nation again this year, slipping one slot from No. 94 in 2020. The city also ranks No. 97 for “Budget and Participation.” Though it inches out of the worst 10 in the “Sports and Outdoors” ranking, landing at No. 89.

Laredo, Texas

5th Worst: Laredo, Texas

Ah, Texas, it seems to dominate the lowest-ranked cities for an active lifestyle once again. Laredo, which was also 96 last year, seems to have many challenges.

Related: The Most Overweight and Obese States in America

Jersey City, New Jersey

4th Worst: Jersey City, New Jersey

Texas isn't the only state with multiple cities doing poorly. New Jersey is similarly guilty. The city also lands among the bottom of the heap in “Budget and Participation,” at No. 98 and for “Sports and Outdoors,” at No. 94.

Newark, New Jersey

3rd Worst: Newark, New Jersey

Next up for New Jersey's underachievers is Newark, which also ranks dead last at No. 100 for “Sports and Outdoors” opportunities. And if you're a Newark resident who is on the hunt for a virtual fitness class, looking locally will not be your best bet: The city also comes in at No. 96 for fewest fitness centers with virtual classes per capita.

Related: The Dirtiest (and Cleanest) Big Cities in America

Worst for Active Lifestyles: Hialeah, Florida

2nd Worst: Hialeah, Florida

Hialeah held solid at No. 99 from last year. The city has its issues.  It's No. 97 for highest percentage of physically inactive residents, and comes in at 100 for fewest fitness centers with virtual classes per capita. Hialeah also has the fewest parks and playgrounds per capita of all the cities studied.

Worst for Active Lifestyles: North Las Vegas

Worst for Active Lifestyles: North Las Vegas, Nevada

Holding solid for two years running, North Las Vegas is once again the worst city in the country for an active lifestyle. Unsurprisingly, the city also ranks dead last in the “Budget and Lifestyle” category. It's also called out for being among those with the fewest tennis courts per capita: No. 92. But if there is one somewhat bright note, it is that North Las Vegas makes it out of the bottom 10 in the “Sports and Outdoors” ranking, landing at 86. So there's that.

Related: How Unhealthy Was Your State When the Coronavirus Hit?