While a significant percentage of Americans – from Maine to Hawii – are utilizing home gyms and health clubs to exercise in order to stay fit, the largest concentration of 'fitness-oriented' Americans is in the 'Sun Belt.'  According to SGMA's Tracking the Fitness Movement (2010 edition), eight of the ten 'fittest' cities in the U.S. are located in the southern section of the country.

The figures in the charts below indicate the percentage of residents in each city which participate in at least one fitness pursuit at the 'core' level, which is at least 50 times a year.

The Top Ten 'Fitness-Oriented' Cities in the United States

Rank        City                    % of 'Core' Fitness Participants
1.         San Diego, CA                       54.5%
2.         Charlotte, NC                        50.5%
3.         Miami/Fort Lauderdale, FL        50.2%
4.         Phoenix/Prescott, AZ              49.3%
5.         Los Angeles, CA                     49.0%
6.         Raleigh/Durham, NC                48.9%
7.         Las Vegas, NV                       48.1%
8.         Dallas/Fort Worth, TX             47.7%
9.         Cincinnati, OH                        46.5%
10.         Portland, OR                        46.1%

Source:  Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA)

“The overall fitness category continues to be the most popular one among active Americans,” said Keith Storey of Sports Marketing Surveys which conducted the study for SGMA.  “In this year's report, we took a look at what we like to call 'core' fitness levels of those people that like to participate in at least one fitness activity 50 or more times a year.  This can be anything from running on a treadmill to lifting weights to Pilates.”  

“In 2009, 124 million Americans were 'core' participants in at least one fitness activity,” said SGMA President Tom Cove.  “It is our objective to increase the number of people that are active.  If we can 'move the needle' in the right direction, obesity levels and obesity-related health issues that are plaguing this country will drop.”

“People in San Diego are into their fitness – men and women, young and old,” said Mike Hecht, manager, Being Fit Fitness Center in San Diego.  “They take fitness seriously.”

“In San Diego, it's all about the weather where you can exercise outside 340-350 days a year.  Our year-round climate is an incentive for individual fitness activities such as biathlons, biking, running, and walking,” said Rick Fink, a resident of Rancho Santa Fe, a suburb of San Diego.  “Access to the beach and the ocean is another incentive to stay active.”  

“In the greater Charlotte area, residents not only enjoy watching great athletic events, but enjoy participating in those sports, as well.  Without a doubt, we live in an area that has a strong focus on exercise and fitness,” said Jeff Beaver, executive director, Charlotte Area Sports Commission.  “And, for the last ten years, we have hosted a high school leadership summit on health and fitness which helps educate high school students on the those two key issues.”

“We sponsor a wellness & prevention program called Live Well-Carolinas, which encourages people to re-focus their behaviors as they relate to exercise and nutrition,” said Russ Guerin, executive vice president of business development and planning, Carolinas HealthCare System, which is based in Charlotte.  “Our program, which is affiliated with the network of local YMCAs, has completely transformed the lives of many people who have lost tons of weight and many inches around the waistline.”

In this study which identified the top 50 'fitness-oriented' cities in the United States, the bottom ten cities in this list tended to be located in the northern part of the country and the 'Rust Belt:'

Bottom Ten (out of 50) 'Fitness-Oriented' Cities in the United States

Rank        City                    % of 'Core' Fitness Participants    
41.         Houston, TX                        40.6%            
42.         San Antonio, TX                   40.4%
43.         Philadelphia, PA                    40.3%
44.         Cleveland/Akron, OH              40.1%
44.         St. Louis, MO                       40.1%
44.         Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo/

             Battle Creek, MI                    40.1%
47.         Harrisburg/Lebanon/York, PA    39.6%
48.         Pittsburgh, PA                       38.7%
49.         Indianapolis, IN                      38.4%
50.         Columbus, OH                        36.1%

Source:  Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA)

Tracking the Fitness Movement is extracted from SGMA's annual national participation study, the Sports & Fitness Participation Topline Report, which utilizes a sample of more than 40,000 Americans, ages six and older.  There are 117 separate activities included in this research study.