The new year is a time to reflect on which aspects of our lives we can most improve. For many people, that may mean a remorseful peak into their savings account or a regretful pinch of the waistline. Statistically speaking, losing weight or eating healthier tends to dominate surveys of Americans’ new year’s resolutions — and for good reason: nearly 40% of U.S. adults were obese in 2016, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC). For many who dream of a healthier lifestyle, though, it may be that their environments may be holding them back. In certain places, it’s easier and cheaper to stay in shape.
Below, we rank the most fitness-friendly places in America. To do this, we looked at data on five metrics. Specifically, we looked at the percentage of people walking or biking to work, the density of fitness professionals, the density of fitness businesses, the fast food establishment density and the hourly cost of a personal trainer. Check out our data and methodology below to see where we got our data and how we put it together to create our final rankings.
This is SmartAsset’s fifth annual study of the most fitness-friendly places in America. Read the previous edition here.
- Consistency is key to fitness – Once again, it was Missoula, Montana and La Crosse-Onalaska, Wisconsin-Minnesota pushing each other to the finish line. Last year, Missoula came out on top. This year, the La Crosse metro area took the honors. In total, there were six cities in this year’s top 10 list that also appeared on last year’s.
- Fitness could be a bigger focus in Texas – Five of the bottom-10 least fitness-friendly cities are in Texas. These cities have low rates of people walking to work, and in some cities, the majority of restaurants are fast food joints.
1. La Crosse-Onalaska, WI-MN
You can’t beat the La Crosse-Onalaska, WI-MN metro area when it comes to getting fit. According to our data, this metro area has an abundance of fitness establishments and ranks fifth in fitness businesses per 10,000 businesses. When trying to make big changes in your life, it helps to have the assistance of an expert. This is true whether you’re investing with a financial advisor or getting in shape with a personal trainer. An expert’s time can be costly, but here the person motivating you through squats costs just $15.42 an hour, a better-than-average rate.
2. Missoula, MT
Missoula has appeared in the top 10 for this study for a few years running now. Living in Missoula means plenty of chances to walk or bike to work, something that can help with fitness. In fact, about 10% of residents here walk or bike to work, a top-10 rate. Even an extra mile or two of walking or biking per day can help you hit your goals. And if outdoor trails aren’t enough for you, you have plenty of opportunities to hit the gym: There are also 125 fitness businesses per 10,000 residents, the second-highest rate in the study.
3. Bend-Redmond, OR
Coming in third is Bend-Redmond, Oregon. One benefit to living here is the lack of temptation to eat unhealthy foods. Only 35% of restaurants here qualify as fast food establishments, a top-35 rate. This metro also ranks in the top 15 for density of fitness professionals and density of fitness establishments. The Bend metro area could possibly secure the top spot in the future if personal trainers become more affordable. Bend ranks 192 for average cost of personal trainers.
4. Pittsfield, MA
Located in the western-most portion of Massachusetts is Pittsfield, the fourth-most fitness-friendly place in America. If you find yourself giving in to the temptation of fast food, this is a good place to end up. Only 31% of restaurants here are considered fast food, one of the lowest rates in the country. All told, Pittsfield ranks in the top 40 for three out of our five metrics. Only the cost of a personal trainer should hold someone back from hitting his or her fitness goals here.
5. Ann Arbor, MI
Up in fifth, we have Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the Wolverines. This metro area ranks in the top 20 for three out of our five metrics. In particular, Ann Arbor scores well with a high number of fitness professionals. Our analysis of BLS data reveals that there are nearly 48 fitness professionals per 10,000 workers. That should leave you with no trouble booking a training session with your favorite personal trainers.
6. Iowa City, IA
If your fitness regimen involves walking or biking to work, Iowa City is a great city to end up. Around 11% of all workers commute to work by either walking or biking, a solid way to stay in shape. Plus, along the average person’s walk to and from work, there is a relatively low chance of running into unhealthy food.
7. State College, PA
State College, Pennsylvania follows up last year’s seventh-place finish with another one this year. Nearly 12% of workers here walk or bike to work, the third-highest rate in the study. State College also contains 113 fitness and recreational centers per 10,000 businesses, a top-10 rate.
8. Burlington-South Burlington, VT
Burlington, Vermont’s largest metro area, ranked well as a fitness-friendly place, because many residents walk or bike to work, there are a large number of fitness professionals in the city and most restaurants here are not of the fast food variety. In each of those metrics, Burlington ranks no worse than 32nd. The only downside to getting fit here is the relatively high cost of personal training. Burlington ranks 229th for the hourly cost of someone yelling out your rep count.
9. Fort Collins, CO
The Fort Collins metro area is great for people who want one-on-one time with a personal trainer. This metro area ranks 17th for density of fitness professionals. Fort Collins is also packed with gyms, ranking 17th for fitness businesses per 10,000 establishments. One stumbling block in the way of residents’ fitness goals is a large number of fast food establishments. Fort Collins ranks 104th in that metric, with 40% of its eateries counting as fast food places.
10. Boulder, CO
Boulder takes a spot in the top 10 thanks to the abundant number of fitness professionals and accessible gyms. In both density of fitness professionals and density of fitness businesses, Boulder ranked in the top 25. This metro area is also a great spot to walk or bike to work. Unfortunately, Boulder is pricey and if you want help from a coach to get in shape, the average personal trainer costs more than $28 per hour.
Data and Methodology
In order to find the most fitness-friendly places in America, we looked at data on 332 metro areas. Specifically, we looked at data for the following five metrics:
- Percent of residents who walk or bike to work. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.
- Concentration of fitness professionals. This is the number of fitness professionals per 10,000 workers. Our list of fitness professionals includes dietitians and nutritionists, recreational therapists, athletic trainers and fitness trainers and aerobics instructors.
- Concentration of fitness establishments. This is the number of fitness establishments per 10,000 establishments. Our list of fitness establishments includes sporting goods stores and fitness and recreational sports centers. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2016 Metro Area Business Patterns Survey.
- Concentration of fast food restaurants. This is the percent of restaurants that are fast food establishments. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2016 Metro Area Business Patterns Survey.
- Average hourly wage of personal trainers. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is for 2017.
We ranked each city in each metric. Then we found each city’s average ranking, giving a half weight to the concentration of fast food restaurants and average hourly wage of personal trainers. Using this average ranking, we created our final score. The city with the best average ranking received a 100, and the city with the lowest average ranking received a 0.
Tips for Getting in Shape…Financially
- If you have struggled for a while to hit your financial goals, you may need to get some help from a financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Make the right budget. Like having a workout plan, it’s a good idea to establish a regimen for just how you are going to spend and save your money. At SmartAsset, we recommend following the 50/30/20 plan. According to this budget you should spend 50% of your income on requirements, like housing and food, 30% on entertainment and 20% on saving.
Questions about our study? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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