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These Are the 15 Fittest Cities in America

Considering a move to a fitter town? Or wondering how your city ranks against the rest of the country? Check out these results.

Rear view of thoughtful African American male runner in stylish sports jacket leaning on wall outdoors, looking into distance at sea, relaxing mind or meditating after running exercise in the morningAnatoliy Karlyuk/Shutterstock

The rankings

Each year, the American College of Sports Medicine releases a ranking of the 100 largest cities in the U.S. based on their health and fitness initiatives. The resulting ASCM American Fitness Index is calculated using 33 indicators, such as personal health behaviors of residents (exercise, healthy eating, smoking), recreational facilities (swimming pools, tennis courts), community/environment (farmers markets, parks), and more. In 2018, the health-minded state of California had four cities in the top 15, but others on this list may surprise you—including the top spot.

boston joggingPurplexsu/Shutterstock

15. Boston, Massachusetts

Despite its brutal winters, Boston ranked second on the list for residents walking or biking to work, as well as fourth in walkability and second for parks within a 10-minute walk. This summer, the Boston Harborwalk launched a free public fitness program called HarborFit, offering free workouts like kayaking, yoga, Zumba, boot camp, and group runs several times per week. The city’s Emerald Necklace Conservancy, comprised of six parks, also provides many options for fitness activities, from hiking to golf to softball.

bike path in san franciscoLynn Watson/Shutterstock

14. San Francisco, California

The Golden Gate City took top honors on the index for most parks within a 10-minute walk, and also for vegetable consumption; 27.5 percent of residents get at least three servings a day. It also ranked among the top 10 cities for walkability, walking or biking to work, aerobic activity, and lowest rates of heart disease. One of the best ways to sightsee is via bicycle, and Ford GoBike, the area’s newest bike share system, makes it fun and affordable. The city also claims to be the top bike rental destination in the country. Check out the most bike-friendly city in every single state.

People walking on hiking trail in Irvine Open Space Park in Orange County, Southern California USA. Outdoor healthy living and exercisezaranda/Shutterstock

13. Irvine, California

Preserved natural habitats and wildlands are abundant in Irvine, which ranked in the top ten cities for fewest smokers and highest percentage of parkland. A place where community co-exists with nature, manicured office parks here are surrounded by 16,000 acres of open space, parks, and sports fields. Cyclists will find more than 300 miles of on-road cycling lanes and 50 miles of off-road bike trails, and the Irvine Ranch Conservancy has 50,000 acres of permanently protected land for exploring.

Autumn by the Pondolddays/Shutterstock

12. Plano, Texas

Residents of this city outside Dallas aren’t overdoing the Texas barbecue and cornbread. They rank among the lowest in the country for heart disease—and the highest overall for hitting both aerobic and strength activity guidelines. They’re getting help from the city’s 56 miles of recreational trails and numerous recreation centers. The city also ranked among the best for getting seven or more hours of sleep per night and had one of the lowest rates of poor mental health. Here are more of the happiest states in America.

jogging in oakland californiacdrin/Shutterstock

11. Oakland, California

Residents living on the “Bright Side of the Bay” (it gets less fog than San Francisco) ranked among the top ten cities in terms of low heart disease rates, fewest smokers, and residents consuming at least two or more servings of fruit per day. Options for outdoor activity abound here, too. Oakland’s 100,000 acres of parks and trails make it a playground for fitness enthusiasts: Just 20 minutes from downtown, hiking paths in the Oakland Hills weave through redwood groves; the Roberts Recreation Area in Roberts Park is home to a swimming pool, sand volleyball court, and baseball fields. Do you ever feel like you’re being watched? If you live in one of the most surveilled cities in the world, you might be.

Family biking along the greenbelt in Boise, IdahoCSNafzger/Shutterstock

10. Boise, Idaho

The capital city of Idaho topped the charts for aerobic activity, with nearly 64 percent of residents meeting exercise guidelines. Boise also ranked high for strengthening activities and exercise overall. Near the center of town, the 25-mile riverside Greenbelt is a popular spot for runners and walkers. The Ridge to Rivers trail takes hikers into the scenic foothills surrounding the town; there are also trails to explore via horseback or bike. These are the 20 best hiking trails across America.

Boardwalk through Alviso Marsh on a cloudy day, San Jose, South San Francisco Bay, CaliforniaSundry Photography/Shutterstock

9. San Jose, California

Though it came in ninth overall, San Jose ranked first among the collective personal health indicators, thanks to residents that score high in measures of exercise, vegetable consumption, and low rates of smoking, obesity, asthma, high blood pressure, and stroke. With more than 300 days of sunshine, the city is home to many options for exploring the outdoors, including 60 miles of developed trails—one of the nation’s largest urban trail networks.

Cyclists on an urban bike path.Juli Hansen/Shutterstock

8. St. Paul, Minnesota

This city gets points for its parks: St. Paul ranked among the top 10 for the number of parks per 10,000 residents and parks within a 10-minute walk. It’s also known as one of the country’s most bicycle-friendly cities, according to Bicycle Magazine, with 84 miles of dedicated bike paths and 44 miles of designated bike lanes on city streets. St. Paul makes it easy for newbies to get outfitted with proper gear, too. The Twin Cities are home to more than 50 bike shops. Check out the U.S. bike trails with the best views.

Woman hiking in Rocky Mountains National Park. Denver. Colorado. United States.Marina Poushkina/Shutterstock

7. Denver, Colorado

The Mile-High City ranks fourth in the nation for exercise. It also earned high marks for having residents that get at least two servings of fruit a day and snoozing seven or more hours a night. Denver’s more than 5,000 acres of parks and parkways, plus 14,000 acres of mountain parks, are prime for exploring. Washington Park, in particular, is a favorite for its active options such as an indoor pool, jogging path, fitness course, soccer field, tennis courts, and more.

pike place marketChecubus/Shutterstock

6. Seattle, Washington

Umbrellas in hand, Seattleites love commuting sans automobile; the city earned the fourth-best score for residents walking or biking to work. It also ranked in the top ten for walkability and a high number of parks within a 10-minute walk, as well as residents who exercise (particularly aerobic activity), get seven or more hours of sleep per night, and they’re less likely to smoke. When it comes to eating healthfully, it’s easy to stock up on fresh produce at the tourist-favorite Pike Place Market. Check out these 9 resorts for your healthiest vacation ever.

portland oregon bikes4kclips/Shutterstock

5. Portland, Oregon

Probably the only surprise here is that Portland is fifth, given town’s reputation for bike lanes, active residents, and general well-being. With abundant farmers markets (nearly 50!), Portland ranked second highest on the list for residents consuming three or more servings of vegetables a day. It also ranked second for exercise, and the numbers don’t lie: The 5,156-acre Forest Park is a popular spot for runners and hikers, with 70 miles of trails within city limits. The entire city boasts 315 miles of bikeways, along with the nation’s highest percentage of bike commuters (7 percent), according to Travel Portland.

biking madison wisconsinJuli Hansen/Shutterstock

4. Madison, Wisconsin

This lakefront college town ranked among the top ten in 13 of the 33 total indicators in the index, and it came in first on seven indicators—an impressive showing. Ninety percent of Madison’s residents reported exercising within the last 30 days, 74 percent sleep seven or more hours per night, and only 18 percent have high blood pressure. The city also ranked highest on parks per 10,000 people (Madison has 11.6), plus more of its parks feature basketball hoops and playgrounds. Here are 15 more underrated cities worth a visit.

Morning Exercise in Washington DCPrin Adulyatham/Shutterstock

3. Washington, D.C.

The District spent three years as America’s Fittest City until 2017, when it fell to second place. A local studio called VIDA Fitness partnered with the city to launch a campaign to “take back No. 1.” While D.C. fell yet another spot, that probably speaks more to the competition than a lack of effort on the city’s part: The partnership has spurred a community-wide effort to offer free workouts, walks and runs, nutrition seminars, and health expos to help D.C. residents improve their fitness. The nation’s capital also boasts plenty of options for getting fit through cycling, with more than 70 miles of bike lanes and 1,100 bikes available through a bike-sharing system.

Minneapolis Minnesota jogging pathames Kirkikis/Shutterstock

2. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Being active outdoors is easy in Minneapolis, which has more than 6,800 acres of public parks and 102 miles of biking and walking paths. The city has added 75 miles of bike lanes in the past six years. The city’s parks and recreation board is currently working toward ensuring access to parks and recreation centers for residents of all neighborhoods. In addition, infrastructure programs like Complete Streets aim to create safe sidewalks, bike lanes, and lighting to encourage more walking and biking outdoors.

Gardens and modern buildings along a path at Freedom Park, in Rosslyn, Virginia.Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

1. Arlington, Virginia

Home to the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, Civil War battlefields, and plenty of public parks, Arlington ranked as the fittest city in America for good to excellent ratings on overall health and low smoking rates. Among the accolades: low levels of obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes; abundant farmers markets, tennis courts, and 49 miles of paved trails for hiking and biking; and good civic funding for public parks. The city is also working on a plan to help families live more active, healthy lifestyles. Next, find out what every state is best—and worst—at.

Kelsey Ogletree
Kelsey Ogletree is a freelance journalist covering travel and wellness for national publications including Reader's Digest, The Wall Street Journal, AARP, Shape and Conde Nast Traveler. She's also the founder of KO Copy, providing resources and workshops to empower publicists and freelance writers to work smarter and better together.