America's Fittest and Fattest Cities

How Does Your Hometown Weigh In?

From the WebMD Archives

Jan. 6, 2005 - Feeling hefty in Houston or svelte in Seattle? You're not alone. A new report shows that Houston once again weighs in as the fattest city in America while Seattle ranks as the fittest.

Men's Fitness magazine ranked the 50 largest U.S. cities based on a variety of factors related to obesityobesity and fitness, such as percentage of obese residents, recreation facilities, sports activities, and number of junk food outlets.

After crunching the numbers, Houston emerged as America's fattest city in 2005. Houston temporarily lost the top spot to Detroit in 2004 but held the dubious honor from 2001 to 2003.

Houston was joined by two other Texas cities in the top 10 fattest cities, Dallas and San Antonio, suggesting that bigger isn't necessarily better for the residents of the Lone Star state. Three other cities, Memphis, New Orleans, and New York, also bulked up and climbed more than 10 spots to make an appearance in the top 10.

On the positive side, the report shows that some cities are slimming down, as Seattle rose from No. 6 on the fittest list to No. 1, followed by Honolulu and Colorado Springs.

Here's how the rest fared:

25 Fattest Cities
RankCityRank in 2004
4Memphis, Tenn.20
7New Orleans22
8New York21
9Las Vegas16
10San Antonio4
11El Paso, Texas24
14Fort Worth, Texas6
15Mesa, Ariz.12
16Columbus, Ohio10
17Wichita, Kan.16*
18Kansas City, Mo.14
20Long Beach, Calif.23*
21Oklahoma City13
22Tulsa, Okla.19
24Charlotte, N.C.22*
* Ranking in the top 25 fittest cities in 2004

25 Fittest Cities
RankCityRank in 2004
3Colorado Springs, Colo.5
4San Francisco2
6Portland, Ore.8
7Sacramento, Calif.10
8Tucson, Ariz.9
9San Diego14
10Albuquerque, N.M.12
12Virginia Beach, Va.3
13Minneapolis, Minn.18
14Fresno, Calif.15
15Milwaukee, Wis.21
16Omaha, Neb.11
17San Jose, Calif.20
18Jacksonville, Fla.13
19Austin, Texas19
20Oakland, Calif.17
21Los Angeles25
22Arlington, Texas8*
25Nashville-Davidson, Tenn.24
* Ranking in the top 25 fattest cities in 2004

How They Did It

It's the sixth annual 50-city report by the magazine. The cities were ranked first to last and assigned numerical grades in 14 equally weighted categories, which are considered indicators, risk factors, or relevant environmental determinants affecting fitness, obesity, and health.

Those categories included:

  • Gyms/Sporting goods: The total number of clubs, gyms, and fitness studios as well as the total number of sporting-goods retailers ranked per 100,000 population.
  • NutritionNutrition: Based on the average frequency of fruit and vegetable consumption and total number of health food stores ranked per 100,000 population.
  • Exercise/Sports: Total participation in 103 sports and fitness-related activities.
  • Overweight/Sedentary: Percentage of obese, overweight, and non-exercisers based on CDC data.
  • Junk Food: Total number of fast-food outlets, pizza parlors, ice cream shops, and doughnut stores ranked per 100,000 population.
  • Alcohol: Based on total number of bars/taverns ranked per 100,000 population and apparent alcohol consumption by state from federal statistics.
  • TV: Home use of televisions.
  • Air Quality: Based on annual EPA reports.
  • Climate: The climate index was based on National Weather Service information combining estimated annual days above 32 degrees and below 90 degrees, amounts of precipitation and sunshine, and the August heat/humidity index.
  • Geography: Accessible recreational forests, lakes, rivers, waterways, mountains, and ocean beaches, compiled from almanacs and additional sources.
  • Commute: Based on the Travel Time Index, which measures traffic delays due to congestion.
  • Parks/Open Space: Based on total acreage per 10,000 population of federal and state recreation areas plus all listed water areas and number of city parks per 10,000 population.
  • Recreation Facilities: Number of public basketball courts, swimming pools, tennis courts, and golf courses per 10,000 population.
  • Health Care: Based on city-by-city ranking of health resources and access.