New year, new fitness resolution! Every January, gyms nationwide are known to fill up with fresh faces who are eager to get into better shape. According to new data, the area you live in can make it easier (or more difficult) to get that exercise you need. And a recent study shows the Flagstaff metro area ranks among the five most fitness-friendly places in America.
READ ALSO: Top 50 fittest cities in Arizona
From casual neighborhood runners to fitness fanatics, many Americans prioritize exercise. This is especially true at the start of the new year, when getting into shape tends to become a popular resolution. The World Health Organization suggests that adults aged 18 to 64 should complete 150 to 300 minutes of moderate cardio each week, which equals between 2.5 to five hours. This is in addition to at least a couple of muscle-strengthening exercises. Where you live, however, can make it easier or more difficult to get the exercise you need.
To uncover the most fitness-friendly places in America, take a look at our comparison of 304 metro areas, which we evaluated across an array of metrics that could benefit residents’ ability to live more fit lifestyles. Read the data and methodology section below for more details on how we found and analyzed our data.
This is SmartAsset’s ninth annual study on the most fitness-friendly places in the U.S. Read the previous version here.
• With pandemic restrictions easing, commuters are walking or biking to work less now. In 2020, the national average for this data point was 3.1%. But in 2021, the average percentage of residents who walk or bike to work fell to 2.6%, indicating that commuters are using other methods of transportation such as personal vehicles or public transit.
• Metro areas in the West dominate the top 10. Six areas – each belonging to a different state – comprise the top of the list, including the No. 1 ranking Missoula, Montana. These areas typically offer more access to fitness professionals and businesses. Comparatively, the Midwest and South have two metro areas in the top 10 while no Northeastern area made the cut.
1. Missoula, MT
Coming back for the third year in a row to reclaim the top spot, Missoula opened an additional eight fitness establishments over the year, bringing its new total to 139 per 10,000 establishments. This is still the second-highest rate in the study, however, behind Corvallis, Oregon. Even with the percentage of residents who walk or bike to work dropping slightly, Missoula went up from the No. 17 spot to No. 14 in this metric.
2. Iowa City, IA
Iowa City jumped from No. 12 to No. 2 in this year’s overall rankings. This is due to its drastic improvements in most of the study categories. There are 39 fitness professionals for every 10,000 workers and 92 fitness establishments for every 10,000 establishments. The city is also quite walkable and bikeable, snagging the No. 4 spot for the percentage of resident commuters who do either of the aforementioned activities (8.1%).
3. Flagstaff, AZ
Almost 8% of Flagstaff residents walk or bike to work, the fifth-highest rate in this study. The metro area also ranks 17th for fitness establishments, claiming 109 out of every 10,000 total establishments. Flagstaff also saw a nice boost in our overall rankings, jumping from the No. 7 spot to No. 3.
4. Madison, WI
Madison ranks in the top 20 for three categories: residents who walk or bike to work, fitness professionals for every 10,000 workers and fitness establishments for every 10,000 establishments. In the previous edition of this study, Madison was ranked No. 13.
5. Hilton Head Island-Bluffton, SC
Hilton Head Island-Bluffton places 10th with less than a third of its restaurants serving fast food. In terms of access, the area offers roughly 36 fitness professionals and 97 fitness establishments (per 10,000 residents and establishments, respectively). Additionally, nearly 3% of Hilton Head Island-Bluffton residents walk or bike to work.
6. Charlottesville, VA
Charlottesville saw significant improvement in our overall rank this year moving up 10 spots from No. 16 to No. 6. Charlottesville remains a popular metro area for walkers and bikers, with 4.9% of its residents walking or biking to work. It also claims the fifth spot for the number of fitness professionals available to every 10,000 workers (43).
7. Bellingham, WA
Just over 4% of Bellingham residents walk or bike to work, which trumps the study average by 1.4 percentage points. The metro area also ranks seventh for the percentage of restaurants that serve fast food. Pay for fitness professionals in Bellingham ranks toward the middle of the list with an average hourly wage of $21.51.
8. Bend, OR
There are 29 fitness professionals for every 10,000 workers in Bend, ranking 58th for this metric. It places seventh with 119 fitness establishments out of every 10,000 total establishments. Roughly 4.1% of residents walk or bike to work, which is 45th in this study.
9. Fort Collins, CO
Fort Collins has 108 fitness establishments out of every 10,000 total establishments, which is down from 111 last year. Around 4.8% of residents walk or bike to work, the 33rd-most out of all the areas in this study.
10. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA Metro Area
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles rounds out our top 10 list. The city ranks in the top 25 for both the number of fitness professionals (35) and fitness establishments (105) per 10,000.
Additionally, less than 40% of restaurants serve fast food offering less temptation for potentially unhealthy food options.