The Best (and Worst) U.S. Cities for Living an Active Lifestyle in 2019

We know maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle can promote physical fitness, prevent disease and improve our quality of life. But sometimes, certain obstacles come between us and that active lifestyle — including the cities in which we live.

WalletHub has analyzed data from the 100 most populated cities in the United States, focusing on two main categories: “budget and participation” and “sports and outdoors.” Within those categories were 38 weighted metrics that earned the cities points to determine their overall rank. According to WalletHub’s scores, these are the 10 best cities for living an active lifestyle in 2019 — as well as the cities that came in last on the list.

10. Madison, Wisconsin

Coming in 10th place overall on the list was Madison, Wisconsin. Madison ranked eighth in the budget and participation category — which included metrics, such as average monthly fitness club fees, the average cost of sports apparel, sports clubs per capita and intramural leagues per capita. Plus, the city ranked 13th in the sports and outdoors category. It had the third most playgrounds per capita, which earned it several points. But it did take a hit by not having many swimming pools per capita — which perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise for the often chilly city.

9. San Diego, California

two surfers on a beach in San DiegoCredit: MichaelSvoboda/Getty Images

San Diego took ninth overall on the list, even though it ranked 27th in the budget and participation category. The city earned more points in the sports and outdoors category, coming in eighth place. That category weighed metrics, including baseball and softball diamonds per capita, the city’s bike score, walking trails per capita and proximity to a major lake or ocean. Within the sports and outdoors category, San Diego tied for first for the most fitness centers per capita.

8. Denver, Colorado

Denver had a strong showing within the categories, coming in fourth place for budget and participation and 12th place for sports and outdoors. Its point total was good enough for eighth place overall. Denver tied for the fourth lowest percentage of physically inactive adults, which boosted its budget and participation score. Plus, two other Colorado cities — Colorado Springs and Aurora — also had low percentages of physically inactive residents.

7. Washington, D.C.

Even if you sometimes wonder whether the politicians are getting anything done, it seems Washington, D.C., is still pretty active. It ranked 28th in the budget and participation category and sixth in the sports and outdoors category — putting it in seventh place overall just slightly above Denver. Within the sports and outdoors category, D.C. had the fifth most tennis courts per capita. And it tied for first for the most swimming pools per capita. But it did miss out on points for having some of the highest monthly fitness club fees out of all the cities.

6. Minneapolis, Minnesota

The overall active lifestyle score for Minneapolis was only marginally higher than Washington, D.C.’s score. But nonetheless, it was good enough for sixth place on the list. Minneapolis took 12th place in the budget and participation category, and it received ninth in sports and outdoors. That category included several metrics for parkland and trails, which are notorious strong points for Minneapolis.

5. Seattle, Washington

Seattle came in fifth place overall on the list, though it did rank 26th (just ahead of San Diego) in the budget and participation category. The city won more points in the sports and outdoors category, where it took fifth place. And even though it only did moderately well in budget and participation, it did have the second lowest percentage of physically inactive residents — just behind the next city on the list.

4. Portland, Oregon

A person rides their bike in Portland, Oregon.Credit: RyanJLane/Getty Images

Portland, Oregon, was the city with the lowest percentage of physically inactive residents — which helped it snag the top spot in the budget and participation category. In the sports and outdoors category, it took seventh place, giving it a total score that propelled it to fourth overall. Also known for its parks and other outdoor recreation opportunities, Portland makes it easy for residents to maintain an active lifestyle.

3. San Francisco, California

San Francisco only had a moderate rank — 55th place out of the 100 cities analyzed — in the budget and participation category. Like Washington, D.C., it had some of the highest monthly fitness club fees, which brought down its score. But it did tie for first (with New York and San Diego) for having the most fitness centers per capita. That boosted San Francisco’s sports and outdoors category rank to third place — and helped it to earn an overall rank of third, as well.

2. Chicago, Illinois

Although it landed in second place overall for its active lifestyle score, Chicago also didn’t shine in the budget and participation category. It came in just behind San Francisco at 56th place. But it was a standout in the sports and outdoors category, taking second place. Within that category, Chicago tied for first for the most swimming pools, basketball hoops and playgrounds per capita. And it had the second most tennis courts per capita.

1. Honolulu, Hawaii

Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach in HonoluluCredit: delamofoto/Getty Images

Living an active lifestyle in Honolulu sounds like a dream. Like Chicago and San Francisco, Honolulu only had a moderate showing — 47th place — in the budget and participation category. But its overall score still allowed it to earn first place overall, thanks to its No. 1 finish in the sports and outdoors category. Honolulu tied for first place for the most basketball hoops per capita. And it had the most tennis courts per capita, giving residents plenty of opportunities to stay active and enjoy that island breeze.

The 10 worst cities for living an active lifestyle

These 10 cities had the lowest overall active lifestyle scores on WalletHub’s list.

  • 10. Memphis, Tennessee
  • 9. Garland, Texas
  • 8. Toledo, Ohio
  • 7. Wichita, Kansas
  • 6. Arlington, Texas
  • 5. Fresno, California
  • 4. Irving, Texas
  • 3. Bakersfield, California
  • 2. North Las Vegas, Nevada
  • 1. Hialeah, Florida

Several metrics within the categories contributed to these cities’ low scores. In the budget and participation category, Memphis and Hialeah had some of the highest percentages of physically inactive residents.

And in the sports and outdoors category, Garland and North Las Vegas had some of the fewest fitness centers per capita. Plus, Irving, Wichita and Fresno didn’t have many basketball hoops per capita. Irving and North Las Vegas had few tennis courts, Bakersfield was short on public golf courses and Hialeah lacked playgrounds.

Main image credit: Ales-A/Getty Images

72 comments

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