What’s the fittest city in America? That really depends on who you ask. Arlington, Virginia was named “America’s Fittest City” in the 2020 ACSM American Fitness Index rankings.
The annual study of America’s largest cities looks at 33 health indicators in two categories – personal health and community/environment. The personal health rankings measure qualities such as the rates of walking, running, or biking to work and the percentage of people exercising in the past 30 days, while the community/environment rankings take into account indicators like parks per 10,000 people, swimming pools per 100,000 people, and air quality.
In Canada, Vancouver, British Columbia was named the most active city, according to Expedia’s “Most Active Cities In Canada, Ranked.” Vancouver was also ranked the fifth healthiest city to visit in the world, based on a variety of factors including number of parks, gyms, spas, and vegan restaurants in cities.
“When it comes to healthy living, Americans are more likely to consider their overall lifestyle as ‘very healthy,’ compared to Canadians who are more modest in their assessment,” according to a Mintel “Canada Vs US: Exercise Trends” blog. “To this end, Americans may be justified in this perception as they tend to exercise more often. However, Canadian consumers consider a wider range of concepts when thinking about their overall health, such as focusing on prevention of future health problems and stress reduction.”
Let’s take a look at the top 10 fit North American cities to see where the fittest Americans and Canadians are living and exploring.
Arlington, Virginia has now been named the fittest city in America for three years in a row, according to the ACSM American Fitness Index. Arlington has the highest rate of residents meeting aerobic and strength activity guidelines and the lowest rate of adults with obesity, according to the Fitness Index.
“Arlington has knocked it out of the ballpark,” says Barbara Ainsworth, chair of the American Fitness Index Board and a regents’ professor in the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University in a Today article. “It also has a low proportion of people who smoke, who have diabetes or heart disease. More people take public transport and Arlington has wonderful facilities for being physically active: bike trails and walking trails.”
Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver topped Expedia’s “Most Active Cities In Canada, Ranked” list, which incorporated a variety of factors such as the average number of marathons and hiking trails, access to bike paths, trails, and races, per capita gyms (including but not limited to CrossFit, yoga studios, and rock climbing), and an abundance of outdoor activities such as kayaking and canoeing.
“Vancouver’s outdoor activities give the city high marks in every category,” according to Expedia. “You simply can’t ignore the fact that this city has 130+ yearly runs, a hugely popular bike trail through Stanley Park, intensive hikes up Grouse Mountain, and neighborhood blocks where you can always find an outdoor supply store or CrossFit gym.”
San Francisco, California
San Francisco was ranked the fifth fittest city in America, ranking fourth for personal health and 18th for community/environment, according to the 2020 ACSM American Fitness Index rankings.
“From its heart-rate-spiking hills to its rabid bike commuter scene, San Francisco is a fit city,” according to TimeOut. “And if you’d rather get your workout in from the comforts of a gym, there’s no shortage of options. San Francisco is awash in boot camps, circuit-training programs, well-stocked weight rooms, Olympic-sized pools, and cardio and yoga studios. Whether your preferred calorie-burning method involves sparring, climbing, running, or barre, there’s a local gym to ramp up your routine.”
San Francisco was also named the healthiest city to live in the United States based on its health care, food, fitness, and green space rankings, according to WalletHub. San Francisco ranked first in the food and green space categories and fourth in fitness, having the fifth highest percentage of physically active adults. San Francisco has the highest number of hiking trails and the highest number of running trails per capita in the United States, as well.
Miami, Florida is America’s healthiest city, according to the MINDBODY Wellness Index rankings.
80% of residents work out at least once a week with 52% opting for group fitness, 69% get integrative health services, like massages and chiropractic care, at least once a year, and 31% prioritize self-care through salon and spa services.
Miami residents are also the most well-rested (62% get a full night’s sleep) and the most content with work (63% enjoy their work and day-to-day activities), which is a big reason why Miami is America’s healthiest city since mental wellness is critical to health, according to the MINDBODY Wellness Index.
Golden, British Columbia
Golden, British Columbia came in second place on Expedia’s “Most Active Cities In Canada, Ranked” list.
“Surrounded by six incredible Canadian national parks, Golden is as picturesque as it is adventurous,” according to Must Do Canada. “This is the place to go if you want to be outdoors.”
Must Do Canada says that there’s no shortage of outdoor things to do regardless of whether it’s spring, summer, fall, or winter. You can go white water rafting in the spring, mountain climbing in the summer, and skiing and snowmobiling in the winter.
Golden also made the top 10 list for cities with the most rock climbing gyms per capita.
Madison, Wisconsin received a fitness score of 92.7, which was good enough for second place on the Men’s Health “These Are the 20 Fittest Cities in America” report. Men’s Health analyzed health stats, obesity data, and activity records to find the fittest American cities. (The top spot went to San Francisco, which is already on this list.)
Madison was also in the top five (coming in fourth) in the 2020 ACSM American Fitness Index rankings. Madison ranked second for personal health and 20th for community/environment.
“Madison’s five lakes provide residents with year-round fitness: ice skating and fishing in the winter; swimming, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding (and even SUP polo) in the summer,” according to Men’s Health. “The city also has the second-highest activity score and the second-highest heart-health score.”
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan ranks in the top half of the SmartAsset “Most Fitness-Friendly Places for 2020” study for all five metrics considered. The five metrics were percentage of residents who walk or bike to work, fitness professionals per 10,000 workers, fitness establishments per 10,000 establishments, percentage of restaurants that are fast food, and average hourly wage of personal trainers.
Ann Arbor has the fifth-highest rate (9.7%) of residents who walk or bike to work, approximately 57 fitness professionals per 10,000 workers (ranking fourth highest) and approximately 105 fitness establishments per 10,000 establishments (ranking 18th highest), according to SmartAsset.
Ann Arbor also ranks as one of the least-stressed cities in America.
Minneapolis, Minnesota was named the third fittest city in the United States, according to the 2020 ACSM American Fitness Index rankings. Minneapolis ranked fifth for personal health and second for community/environment. It tops the list for bikeability (scoring 83.5 out of 100) and for park funding (with $236 per resident).
“It ranked among the top 10 cities for some other individual indicators, including the percentage of people with a low rate of high blood pressure, the percentage within a 10-minute walk to a park, the number of recreation centers for every 20,000 residents, and the number of baseball diamonds and basketball hoops per 10,000 residents,” according to MinnPost.
Whistler, British Columbia
Whistler, British Columbia rounds out the top three on Expedia’s “Most Active Cities In Canada, Ranked” list.
“When you compile a list of the most active cities in Canada, you know that Whistler, British Columbia, is waiting patiently for its name to be called,” according to Expedia. “Scratch that. This town ain’t got time to wait – not when there’s legendary skiing, zip lining, and whitewater rafting.”
Activities at Whistler include skiing and snowboarding, winter zip lining, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling in the winter, whitewater rafting, golf, canoeing, kayaking, and SUP in the spring, biking, hiking, and swimming at lakes, beaches, and parks in the summer, and climbing, axe throwing, and fishing in the fall, according to Tourism Whistler.
Seattle, Washington came in second in the 2020 ACSM American Fitness Index rankings. Seattle ranked third for personal health and 12th for community/environment.
“Seattle isn’t nicknamed the Emerald City by accident – the greenery here is something to behold year-round,” according to Visit Seattle. “There’s no shortage of ways to get out and explore in this nature-filled mecca.”
Visit Seattle recommends hiking Discovery Park, Mount Si, and/or Mount Rainer, or biking the Burke-Gilman Trail or cycling from Seattle to Portland (STP).
“A Northwest rite of passage since 1979, the STP riding event takes bikers all the way from Seattle’s University of Washington campus to Portland’s Holladay Park,” according to Visit Seattle. “Most of the 10,000 or so participants spend two days traversing the 200 miles, but the truly ambitious can complete it in one.”
Seattle also came in third place, receiving a fitness score of 92.5, according to the Men’s Health “These Are the 20 Fittest Cities in America” report.
“Seattle has a striking 485-plus parks – and they’re not all open fields and blacktop loops,” according to Men’s Health. “Gas Works Park weaves green space and trails through the remnants of a former industrial complex.”