Let's Get Physical

Austin moves to No. 8 among America's most physically active cities

Austin moves to No. 8 among America's most physically active cities

Austin runner Lady Bird Lake trail
78.5 percent of adults in Austin self-reported engaging in physical exercise. The Trail Foundation

All those trips around the trail at Lady Bird Lake are paying off, Austin. A new study looking at physical activity levels among U.S. adults ranks Austin No. 8 in the nation.

The study, conducted by ChamberOfCommerce.org, reviewed data in more than 250 cities and 49 states, in part to explore how the pandemic will permanently affect people’s habits and lifestyles.

To determine the most physically active cities, researchers ranked locations by the share of adults who self-reported engaging in leisure-time physical activity — such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking for exercise. For context, statistics on obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, and depression, were also included.

According to the report, 78.5 percent of Austin adults self-reported engaging in physical exercise, giving the Capital City the eighth largest share of physically active adults among large cities in the U.S.

The following figures were also reported:

  • Share of Austin adults who are obese: 25.2 percent
  • Share of Austin adults with high cholesterol: 30.5 percent
  • Share of Austin adults with diabetes: 9.5 percent
  • Share of Austin adults with depression: 19.3 percent

For reference, here are the figures for the U.S. as a whole:

  • Share of adults who are physically active: 74.4 percent
  • Share of adults who are obese: 31.3 percent
  • Share of adults with high cholesterol: 28.7 precent
  • Share of adults with diabetes: 9.7 percent
  • Share of adults with depression: 18.9 percent

Data varied widely across states, but the report identified highly active states in several regions of the country. Colorado (80.9 percent), Washington (80.6 percent), Minnesota, (80.3 percent), and Vermont (79.8 percent) lead the charge, while Southern states like Mississippi (61.2 percent), Kentucky (66.6 percent), and Louisiana (67.5 percent) are among the least active. Texas, meanwhile, ranks 36th, with a 70.6 percent share of physically active adults.

While many of the most active states have excellent natural resources suited to active outdoor lifestyles, the study pointed to state income levels as the more likely explanation for lower levels of physical activity in some places. Research found a correlation between higher levels of income and physical activity, and many top states have higher typical incomes than their less active peers. At the local level, many of the most active cities are found in these same active states, including metros like Seattle, Denver, and Minneapolis.

The questions of whether and how much people are exercising post-pandemic are important because of the proven link between physical activity and both individual and public health, a release says. Benefits associated with a physically active lifestyle include reduced blood pressure, improved mood and energy levels, and better sleep, and physically active people are at lower risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some types of cancers.