For many locals and travelers alike, the path to good health and happiness is often found in a park, on a mountainside, or along a river that makes way for pedestrians and bikers. This year, Travel + Leisure's America's Favorite Cities Survey asked the public to rate which U.S. cities have the most active/athletic residents—and the least. And the results are mixed, both predictable and startling.
Now in its fifth year, the survey spans 30 U.S. cities and delivers up-to-date opinions from the American public on such categories as local attractions and family getaways, even holiday travel and the intelligence quotients of residents. Not surprisingly, the number of natural features, the quality of the cities' green spaces, walkability, and more were all factors in deciding which U.S. cities are in top form.
According to the President's Council on Fitness and Sports, "adults 18 and older need 30 minutes of physical activity on five or more days a week to be healthy; children and teens need 60 minutes of activity a day for their health."
These goals are easier to reach in some cities than in others. Progressive, bike-friendly Portland, OR—a city that ranked near the top of this year's fitness list—has no shortage of scenic spots to get the blood pumping. Plus, the local culture practically demands you get moving-and break a sweat.
"Since moving to Portland 10 years ago, my attitude about fitness has changed," says well-toned 39-year-old Portlander Lia Mills. "Instead of being a chore or ‘something to get out of the way,' it's become a way of life for my family and me. And because the city makes exercise so easy and accessible (everyone is doing it!), it's difficult not to get [and stay] in shape."
Sunny San Diego—a West Coast city that consistently cracks the top of the list—has its fair share of active locals, who take advantage of the city's perfect temps and many green spaces, such as Balboa Park. Honolulu, too, benefits from near-perfect weather and a gorgeous seaside location-assets that surely contribute to the Hawaiian city's high ranking in this year's survey.
While buff bods abound in some towns, big waistlines and laissez-faire workout attitudes are the norm in others. Atlanta may have hosted the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, but it appears the Georgia city still falls in the bottom third for athletics. St. Louis, too, needs to renew its gym membership.
And while survey takers were not kind this year to New Orleans—a town where all-you-can-eat crawfish boils are considered a sport—there are still a surprising number of ways to exercise and enjoy the Louisiana city.
"Not everyone in food-obsessed New Orleans falls victim to a ‘po'boy belly,'" says Kettye Voltz, creative director of the popular local dance company Tsunami. "There are plenty of options for working off a night of overindulgence, like the brand-new 4.7-mile hybrid path that runs along the bayou."
No matter whether you're a type A endorphin addict or an exercise-phobe, there's a U.S. city to fit your lifestyle. Read on for the 2009 America's Favorite Cities Survey results.