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I know we’re all sick of hearing about the pandemic, but the reality is, it changed a lot—the fitness landscape included. Between gyms closing, people thinking more and more about their mental health, and issues surrounding healthcare being at the forefront of not only politics but the everyday American’s life, the way we view (and do) fitness has continued to evolve. 

As leaders in fitness equipment reviews and the fitness industry as a whole, our team at Garage Gym Reviews wanted to find out what the fittest states are to get a better idea of health across America. To see where your state falls, keep reading. (And if you’re expecting to see California at the top of our list, think again!)

Fittest States

We analyzed data from six reports—self-reported aerobic activity, self-reported strength activity, obesity rates, gyms per capita, internet searches for “gyms near me,” and internet searches for “home workouts”—to rank the 50 states (plus Washington, D.C.) in order of most to least fit. Here’s what we found based on these determinants.

An image of a list of the fittest states
  1. Colorado
  2. Connecticut
  3. Vermont
  4. Utah
  5. Montana
  6. Rhode Island
  7. District of Columbia
  8. Massachusetts
  9. Florida
  10. Delaware
  11. Wyoming
  12. Minnesota
  13. South Carolina
  14. Oregon
  15. New Hampshire
  16. Idaho
  17. Alaska
  18. Hawaii
  19. Washington
  20. New Jersey
  21. Arizona
  22. New Mexico
  23. Georgia
  24. California
  25. Maryland
  26. Wisconsin
  27. Illinois
  28. New York
  29. North Carolina
  30. Nebraska
  31. Texas
  32. North Dakota
  33. Virginia
  34. Pennsylvania
  35. Maine
  36. Michigan
  37. Louisiana
  38. South Dakota
  39. Missouri
  40. Kansas
  41. Nevada
  42. Iowa
  43. Oklahoma
  44. Tennessee
  45. Ohio
  46. Indiana
  47. Arkansas
  48. Kentucky
  49. Mississippi
  50. Alabama
  51. West Virginia

The western U.S. fared well in our analysis: Colorado took the top spot as the fittest state in the U.S. by a significant margin, and Utah and Montana round out the top five. Two states in the Northeast—Connecticut and Vermont—came in second and third.

All of the states in the bottom five are in the south, including Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, and No. 51 on the list, West Virginia. Midwestern states, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Nebraska, consistently ranked in the middle of the pack. 

Aerobic Activity: Self-Reported from Residents  

The first set of data1 that we analyzed was from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and it reported the percentage of people by state who said they participated in aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes per week. Aerobic activity has been shown to lower blood pressure and the risk of a stroke, plus improve your fitness level, mental health and cognitive function, balance, and joint mobility—this makes it an important indicator of community well-being.

Montana took the top spot here, with 62.3% of respondents from the state saying that they hit 150 minutes of aerobic activity weekly, followed by Vermont at 61.3%, and Colorado at 58.4%.

Bringing up the bottom was Kentucky at 35.3%, Oklahoma at 37.3%, and Mississippi at 38.5%. Data was not available for New Jersey. 

Strength Activity: Lifting Weights Twice Per Week

The second set of data2 is also from the CDC and reports the percentage of people by state who said they participated in “muscle-strengthening exercise” at least twice per week. Aerobic exercise is more popular than strength training—AKA lifting weights—as is indicated by these rates of prevalence. Strength training is also important for public health, though, for its ability to preserve muscle mass, improve mobility, and maintain a healthy weight.

D.C. topped this list of strength activity, with 40.6% of respondents from the district saying they strength trained twice per week. Montana followed closely behind at 39.7%, while Vermont came in third at 39.7%

West Virginia came in last, with just 26.1% of resident respondents saying they strength trained twice per week. Kentucky showed 27%, while Missouri showed 27.8% and Oklahoma showed 28.7%. Rhode Island and Virginia are right in the middle of the road here with 36.1% and 35.8% respectively. 

An image of a map of the fittest states

States With the Highest Obesity Rates

Next, we analyzed data around obesity rates3, also from the CDC. Namely, what is the percentage of obese citizens in each state?

According to the World Health Organization, obesity is defined as a body mass index, or BMI, of over 30. For comparison, a BMI of between 18.5 to 24.9 is considered healthy. Obese people are more likely to have high blood pressue and cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and more, plus higher mortality rates overall. 

Colorado, again, demonstrates that it’s one of the fittest states, with only a 24.2% prevalence of obesity. D.C. followed closely behind at 24.3%, while Massachusetts has a 24.4% obesity rate and Hawaii has a 24.5% obesity rate. 

The top 15 states on this list—including New York, New Jersey, and Washington, capped off with New Hampshire at No. 15—all have obesity rates under 30%.

The states with the highest obesity rates are Mississippi (39.7%), West Virginia (39.1%), Alabama (39%), Louisiana (38.1%), Indiana (36.8%), Kentucky (36.6%), Iowa (36.5%), and Delaware (36.5%). 

Number of Gyms Per Capita 

To determine the number of gyms per capita, we looked at population data from the 2020 U.S. Census4, as well as 2020 data from IHRSA5 on the number of gyms per state. And while this isn’t a definitive indicator of fitness, those with more access to gyms would theoretically have fewer roadblocks making fitness a part of their everyday lives. 

Montana, Connecticut, and D.C. came out on top with 18.91, 18.80, and 17.98 gyms per person respectively. At the bottom of the list were West Virginia at 8.25, Utah at 9.17, Kentucky at 9.43, and Hawaii at 9.69. 


It’s interesting that Utah and Hawaii are near the bottom of this list, as they’re both in the top quarter of healthiest states overall—goes to show what we preach here at GGR is true, that you don’t need to have access to a gym to get fit!

An image of a map of the least fit states

Internet Searches: Gyms Near Me

Next, we turned to Google Trends data to determine the quantity of searches around the query “gyms near me” looking at the time period between August 16, 2021, through August 16, 2023. The gyms have to be there first, of course, but then residents have to want to visit them. 

Google Trends ranks states by search interest based on volume of searches. This means that the state with the highest interest in “gyms near me” would score a 100, and a state with a score of 50 would have half the overall search interest comparatively.

Colorado’s residents were the most likely to search for gyms in their area over this time period with a score of 100. This query was almost as common in Texas and Rhode Island, followed closely by Delaware, Utah, and Idaho. 

The “gyms near me” search scored a 42 in South Dakota, which was last on the list, a 44 in Wyoming, and a 53 in Alaska. 

Internet Searches: Home Workout 

We also analyzed Google Trends data around the query “home workout” from August 16, 2021, through August 16, 2023, and this trend was most common in Utah, which scored a 100. This tracks, as Utah also has a lower number of gyms per capita comparatively, but is also near the top of the list of fittest states. 

Residents of Wyoming (99), Alaska (97), South Carolina (93), North Dakota (93), Rhode Island (92), South Dakota (92), and Delaware (90) are also searching for “home workout” with some frequency. On the flip side, residents of New Hampshire, D.C., Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, and Oregon were the least likely to search for home workouts, all with scores under 68. 

Fittest States: Final Thoughts 

From Arizona to Maine, we analyzed data from across the country to determine the fittest states. 

  • Western states tend to be fitter than those in other regions in the country. Colorado comes in at the top of our list, with its high self-reporting of exercise, low obesity rates, and high number of gyms per capita. 
  • West Virginia is at the bottom of our list for the opposite reasons. Other southern states including Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky aren’t far behind. 
  • A particularly interesting finding: Even in those states with less access to gyms, many residents are still finding a way to stay fit. 

Methodology

All data for aerobic activity levels, strength training levels, and obesity rates were obtained from the CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey. Aerobic activity levels were measured by the percentage of people who reported participating in at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week. Strength activity levels were measured by the percentage of people who reported participating in “muscle-strengthening” activity at least twice per week. 

Number of gyms per capita data was obtained from IHRSA “How Gyms Keep America Physically & Fiscally Fit by State” fact sheet, and the U.S. Census population data. 

All keyword search data was pulled from Google Trends based on the keywords “home workouts” and “gyms near me” search trends. Google Trends ranks states by search interest based on volume of searches. This means that the state with the highest interest would score a 100, and a state with a score of 50 would have half the overall search interest comparatively. 

After all data was collected, each state plus D.C. was given a ranking from 1 to 51 in all categories. The final rankings for the fittest states were found using an average of rankings for each report.  

Fair Use Statement

Interested in sharing where your state falls among the fittest states, or using this data study in an article? Please include a link to this article and credit GarageGymReviews.com. 

Fittest States FAQ

What are the fittest states in America?

Based on our analysis, the fittest state in America is Colorado, followed by Connecticut, Vermont, Utah, and Montana. 

What are the unhealthiest states?

West Virginia, Alabama, and Mississippi came in at the bottom of our data study of the fittest  states. 

What is the least obese state?

According to CDC data, Colorado has the lowest level of obesity at 24.2%. 

References

  1. BRFSS prevalence & trends data: Physical activity. Aerobic activity. 2019. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. BRFSS prevalence & trends data: Physical activity. Strength activity. 2019. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  3. BRFSS prevalence & trends data: Overweight and Obesity (BMI). BMI categories. 2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
  4. Bureau USC. State population totals and components of change: 2020-2021. Census.gov. 
  5. How gyms keep America physically & fiscally fit by state. IHRSA. 2020.

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