Studies show that physical inactivity can lead to an increased risk of cancers, insulin resistance, heart problems and cognitive decline. Where you live can be a large factor in determining how sedentary your lifestyle is as well as your exercise options.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Hallam of the University of Mississippi Center for Health Behavior Research, “In Portland, Oregon, many people bicycle or walk everywhere, and there is a social expectation that others should bike or walk,” he said. “But in Mississippi, that expectation to be physically active isn’t as strong.” BetterDoctor is a website that helps you find the best doctor for your needs.

To reduce your healthcare costs and improve your quality of life, preventative care is key, and physical activity is one of the best ways to make sure you see the doctor less. We crunched the numbers to determine which cities make it easy to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. We used the following factors to determine how easy it is to have an active lifestyle:

1. Do other people in the city exercise?

We included the percentage of residents who report having had physical activity or exercise in the past thirty days. This was weighted at 40% of the overall score.

2. Are other residents fit?

We included the percentage of residents who are at a healthy weight. If other residents are fit, then the area tends to provide opportunities for physical fitness and healthy eating. This was weighted at 30% of the overall score.

3. Do residents have access to high-quality parks and outdoor spaces?

We included the acres of park space per resident as well as the parks spending per resident to ensure that these facilities are high-quality. This was weighted at 20% and 10% of the final score, respectively.

- California cities top the list.

Five out of the top ten cities are located in California. California’s temperate climate allows for outdoor activities, making it easier to have an active lifestyle.

- Big cities tend to score higher on the list.

The average population for the top ten cities is 121,000 more than the average population for the bottom ten cities. Big cities tend to be more walkable and have a younger population, so this correlation is logical.

-Texas scores low on the list.

Five of the bottom cities are in Texas. These cities are a bit more spread out, making it difficult to travel in any way other than by car.

*BetterDoctor’s advice:

  • We focused on access in this study—in cities where some residents are working two jobs to make ends meet, infrastructure like parks and bike lanes can make a huge difference in the health of residents.

In some cities, it’s easy to walk or bike to work, go hiking on the weekends and go for a walk in the park. In others, these things are considerably more difficult due to lack of infrastructure and outdoor space, weather, sprawl or other factors. We recommend taking small steps to incorporate physical activity into your daily life, such as taking the stairs or walking to work.

In these lower-ranked cities, it’s especially important that residents plan exercise since it’s difficult to incorporate exercise into their daily habits.

Fit Cities Index

Rank City Park expenditure per resident Park acres per 1000 residents Percentage of residents at a healthy weight Percentage of residents who have exercised in the past 30 days Fit cities index score
1 Aurora, Colorado $126 31.4 43.00% 83.80% 75.21
2 San Francisco, California $263 6.6 44.80% 82.60% 73.56
3 Oakland, California $137 14.5 44.80% 82.60% 72.29
4 Albuquerque, New Mexico $72 32.7 43.30% 82.00% 70.92
5 Seattle, Washington $255 9 42.30% 83.40% 70.91
6 Denver, Colorado $146 9.7 43.00% 83.80% 70.5
7 Portland, Oregon $151 24.6 40.30% 84.20% 69.96
8 Sacramento, California $133 10.9 40.90% 84.70% 68.41
9 Irvine, California $149 36.5 43.10% 78.90% 66.83
10 San Diego, California $106 35.9 41.20% 81.00% 66.47
11 Scottsdale, Arizona $0 72.2 36.00% 81.50% 63.77
12 San Jose, California $118 16.5 39.70% 83.00% 63.51
13 St. Paul, Minnesota $208 16.2 38.40% 82.90% 63.04
14 Minneapolis, Minnesota $227 13.3 38.40% 82.90% 62.82
15 Honolulu, Hawaii $0 14 43.90% 80.30% 62.16
16 Colorado Springs, Colorado $49 45.2 38.60% 80.90% 62.15
17 Reno, Nevada $69 11.3 42.50% 80.90% 61.87
18 Washington, D.C. $398 12.8 37.80% 80.70% 61.21
19 Virginia Beach, Virginia $146 58.4 37.80% 77.20% 58.42
20 Boston, Massachusetts $110 7.6 43.20% 78.50% 58.26
21 Tucson, Arizona $94 7.2 41.60% 79.70% 57.28
22 Anaheim, California $61 1.9 43.10% 78.90% 56.31
23 Phoenix, Arizona $100 29.5 36.00% 81.50% 56.03
24 Lincoln, Nebraska $0 24.8 37.40% 81.80% 55.66
25 Santa Ana, California $38 1 43.10% 78.90% 55.52
26 Raleigh, North Carolina $142 31 37.10% 79.60% 55.5
27 Austin, Texas $68 37.2 35.90% 80.70% 55.19
28 Durham, North Carolina $130 11.8 41.10% 78.00% 54.75
29 Glendale, Arizona $78 8.5 36.00% 81.50% 50.43
30 Rochester, New York $0 7.2 37.40% 81.00% 49.74
31 Las Vegas, Nevada $234 5.4 39.60% 76.30% 49.39
32 Mesa, Arizona $70 4.9 36.00% 81.50% 49.37
33 Long Beach, California $126 6.7 37.50% 79.20% 49.17
34 Henderson, Nevada $203 7.7 39.60% 76.30% 49.17
35 Jacksonville, Florida $4 72.5 38.60% 72.10% 48.95
36 Los Angeles $59 11 37.50% 79.20% 48.52
37 Chandler, Arizona $0 6.1 36.00% 81.50% 47.9
38 St. Petersburg, Florida $128 27.3 35.50% 77.90% 47.64
39 New York, New York $162 4.6 40.50% 75.40% 47.19
40 Wichita, Kansas $49 12.4 38.50% 77.40% 46.68
41 Cincinnati, Ohio $225 20.5 38.10% 74.60% 46.37
42 Chicago, Illinois $149 4.4 38.80% 76.70% 46.36
43 Charlotte, North Carolina $64 20.3 37.00% 77.40% 46.12
44 Milwaukee, Wisconsin $90 15.9 39.10% 75.60% 45.87
45 Kansas City, Missouri $113 36.1 34.50% 77.00% 45.58
46 Atlanta, Georgia $67 8.8 37.40% 77.90% 45.25
47 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania $46 7.2 39.90% 75.80% 44.61
48 Jersey City, New Jersey $1 6.8 40.50% 75.40% 43.67
49 Houston, Texas $38 22 36.90% 76.40% 43.57
50 Norfolk, Virginia $88 2.6 37.80% 77.20% 43.56
51 Tampa, Florida $101 10 35.50% 77.90% 42.81
52 Omaha, Nebraska $0 21 37.00% 76.30% 42.36
53 Buffalo, New York $32 6.9 37.90% 76.10% 41.05
54 Riverside, California $125 15.7 35.10% 76.40% 40.85
55 Indianapolis, Indiana $36 13.8 36.20% 76.50% 40.44
56 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania $106 10.1 35.00% 76.40% 38.84
57 New Orleans, Louisiana $20 84.1 30.10% 73.10% 38.22
58 Nashville, Tennessee $56 17.8 37.80% 73.30% 38.15
59 Cleveland, Ohio $69 7.3 34.40% 77.30% 38.01
60 Plano, Texas $152 15.5 36.40% 73.60% 38.01
61 Greensboro, North Carolina $87 24.3 32.70% 76.60% 37.86
62 Dallas, Texas $70 18 36.40% 73.60% 36.55
63 San Antonio, Texas $52 17 36.70% 73.50% 36.21
64 Newark, New Jersey $33 3 38.20% 73.90% 36.05
65 St. Louis, Missouri $55 10.3 36.20% 74.50% 35.85
66 Orlando, Florida $110 12.7 34.30% 74.70% 34.65
67 Oklahoma City $61 39 35.10% 71.50% 34.47
68 Garland, Texas $0 13.9 36.40% 73.60% 33.8
69 Baltimore, Maryland $56 7.7 33.50% 76.00% 33.33
70 Louisville, Kentucky $38 18.1 33.70% 74.80% 33.21
71 Irving, Texas $0 9.1 36.40% 73.60% 32.65
72 Miami, Florida $13 2.8 34.20% 75.90% 32.18
73 Columbus, Ohio $64 14.1 34.50% 73.70% 32.09
74 Baton Rouge, Louisiana $0 6.6 35.40% 74.30% 31.65
75 Hialeah, Florida $0 0.8 34.20% 75.90% 31.38
76 Fort Wayne, Indiana $66 9.4 30.90% 76.60% 30.35
77 Fort Worth, Texas $79 16 30.30% 76.00% 29.86
78 Arlington, Texas $80 12.3 30.30% 76.00% 29
79 El Paso, Texas $34 46.6 30.20% 71.50% 26.37
80 Tulsa, Oklahoma $31 19.4 33.60% 70.80% 24.69
81 Lubbock, Texas $48 9.8 35.30% 69.30% 22.85
82 Detroit, Michigan $25 6.5 32.90% 71.70% 22.03
83 Birmingham, Alabama $1 10.4 33.70% 70.80% 21.97
84 Memphis, Tennessee $26 13.5 28.90% 73.90% 20.85
85 Laredo, Texas $3 6.9 29.10% 65.80% 1.92

Fit Cities Index: Most Active Cities

1. Aurora, Colorado

The city of Aurora has more than 100 parks as well as six golf courses. The city has a very high park-to-resident ratio, and almost 84% of residents reported that they had exercised in the past thirty days, which is one of the highest numbers in all the cities surveyed.

2. San Francisco, California

San Francisco has more than 220 parks, and nearby Muir Woods offers hiking trails and scenic views. The city spends a lot of money on its well-maintained parks, and almost 83% of residents reported having exercised recently.

3. Oakland, California

Oakland has a temperate climate and a robust park system, and the city has many nearby hiking trails. The metro area has the highest percentage of residents at a healthy weight of any place on our list.

4. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque’s park system contributed to its place near the top of our list. The city has a whopping 32.7 park acres per 1,000 residents, and a full 43.4% of the population is at a healthy weight.

5. Seattle, Washington

Between Green Lake and Discovery Park, Seattle offers plenty of outdoor activities. Seattle spends a lot on its parks, and more than 42% of the city’s residents are at a healthy weight, and more than 83% reported exercising recently.*

6. Denver, Colorado

Denver has more than 200 parks and 29 recreation centers. Denver’s well-maintained parks and culture of exercise (nearly 84% of residents reported exercising in the past 30 days) propelled the city to the top ten.

7. Portland, Oregon

Portland is home to Forest Park, which covers more than 5,000 acres, and the city’s park system is one of the best ones in the United States. Portland’s health-conscious culture is evident in the high percentage of residents who report having exercised recently.

8. Sacramento, California

Sacramento’s parks offer more than 5,000 acres of land. The city has the highest percentage of residents who reported exercising in the past 30 days of any city on our list.

9. Irvine, California

Irvine has a comprehensive park system and a temperate climate. The city spends to maintain its robust park system, and more than 43% of residents are at a healthy weight.

10. San Diego, California

San Diego has a mild climate, natural harbor, beaches and plenty of parks for its residents. A full 81% of this beach town’s residents reported exercising in the past 30 days.

Fit Cities Index: Most Sedentary Cities

  1. Laredo, Texas
  2. Memphis, Tennessee
  3. Birmingham, Alabama
  4. Detroit, Michigan
  5. Lubbock, Texas
  6. Tulsa, Oklahoma
  7. El Paso, Texas
  8. Arlington, Texas
  9. Fort Worth, Texas
  10. Fort Wayne, Indiana

Data is from the CDC and the Trust for Public Land.

The CDC data was calculated on a metro area level, while the TPL data was calculated on a city level. 85 cities were included in our analysis.  

We calculated the fit cities index based on a 1 to 100 scale, with exercise habits weighted at 40%, percentage of residents at a healthy weight at 30%, acres of parkland at 20% and park spending at 10%.