Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

These are the fittest (and most unhealthy) states in the U.S.

Total Shape breaks down the stats on the fittest states, and the highest and lowest obesity rates

We are a fat nation, yet we are also fit. With upwards of 70% of this country’s population being obese, we overconsume and are overfed (per a 2016 study by the English Our World in Data nonprofit). Not coincidentally, the United States also contains some of the most fast food restaurants per capita. According to a national survey by online fitness resource Total Shape, though, we make up that calorie consumption by retaining access to the most gyms in the world.

Health Crossfitter's silhouette. Lake, foothills, and sky in background.
Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan

“The fast-food industry in America is worth over $250 billion and 1 in 4 Americans visit a fast-food restaurant daily,” Total Shape said in a press release. “Americans also have some of the greatest sports facilities and events in the world, inspir(ing) millions to get out and get active.”

Such is reality in this contradiction of a nation.

Total Shape conducted an extensive research study that uncovered these stark fitness differences. Researchers analyzed data on key health indicators in America, such as searches for gym memberships, gyms per 100,000 capita of population, percentage of adult smokers, and obesity rates. This data elicited some fascinating results, not least of which is one comparing the healthiest and unhealthiest states in the Union.

The fittest states in the U.S.

The healthiest state in the U.S. according to Total Shape? California. This seems obvious, but there are also lots of nearby outdoors paradises like Colorado, Utah, and Washington to compete. California, however, won out on sporting the most gyms and some of the lowest obesity and smoking rates in the country. With more than 30,000 fast food restaurants, California does have the most in the nation. Being a huge state, though, there are only 77 restaurants per 100,000 people — only slightly above the national average of 74.

Colorado, Montana, and Utah appear on the list of healthiest states but check in only at numbers seven, eight, and nine, respectively. This is somewhat of a surprise, at least for the writer with a West Coast bias. Total Shape found Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Jersey are the next-healthiest states in the U.S. Taylor Pork Rolls — good for you. Who knew?

Connecticut opened the U.S.’s first burger restaurant in 1895, which led to over 2,500 fast food restaurants opening across the state, but this is only a middling number per capita. Where the state stands out is its figure of 19 gyms for every 100,000 people, the second-highest in Total Shape’s list. New Jersey may be the “diner capital of the world,” but with 15 gyms per 100,000 people, only 13% of adults smoking, and a “low” obesity rate of 27%, Jersey knows how to stay fit.

The least healthy states in the U.S.

The least healthy states in Total Shape’s analysis — West Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Mississippi — all share the opposite characteristics: nearly 40% obesity rates, almost double the amount of smokers, and nearly half the amount of gyms per capita. Goes to show that culture matters.

Notably, Hawaii has the highest search rates for gym memberships in America, but it has few opportunities for gym-goers due to scarce, expensive land spread along the islands. There are only 10 gyms for every 100,000 people contrasted with 102 fast food restaurants per 100,000 people — the highest rate in America and about 25 more than average. Despite this unhealthy stat, the state does remain paradise, and Hawaii’s 25% obesity rate is one of the lowest in the U.S.

Fast food restaurants per 100,000 people, in fact, is one of the more consistent measures across the country.

“Even in the healthiest states, such as Massachusetts and Connecticut, there are just over triple the number of fast-food restaurants than gyms,” Total Shape said. “In states such as Kentucky and West Virginia, this figure rises to seven times the number of fast-food restaurants to gyms.”

Total Shape also found that we boast the most gym and health facilities globally (and the highest annual industry revenue in the world), the average gym member sits about four to six miles from their local gym, whereas the closest food joint is between about 2.5 to 3.7 miles away.

A lot of temptation, in other words, lies in wait for the typical U.S. citizen, which isn’t great for obesity rates in America. Communities can help to combat that. If you’re already a gym member, try to join some groups or classes. If you’re not at the gym, check into local fitness meetups. People love to get together to encourage each other to run, jump, and climb. Even online resources like Total Shape can help us congregate over good health and positive habits.

Editors' Recommendations

Matthew Denis
Matt Denis is an on-the-go remote multimedia reporter, exploring arts, culture, and the existential in the Pacific Northwest…
Gold’s Gym’s New Sportswear Line Pays Homage to the ‘Mecca of Bodybuilding’
golds gym sportswear line news gold s retro  grand collection

Tired of tight, skin-sweaty, stretchy workout clothes? Got a hankering to show-off cuts and curves popping out beneath relaxed workout duds? Get into Gold's Gym’s upcoming “Grand Collection,” a revival and a long-overdue homage to its first Venice Beach home, the “Mecca of Bodybuilding” that contributed to the sport's global appeal.

This exclusive cut and sewn collection gives a nod to the era when Joe Gold built his first gym on the beach (in response to being barred from the Santa Monica pier) in 1965. The “Grand Collection” revisits those halcyon first days with a limited debut that includes nine styles: Hoodies, t-shirts, shorts, jogging pants, sweatshirts, and more. Gold’s intends for each piece to make a powerful statement that reinforces its fitness world ubiquity, from Los Angeles to South Beach. 

Read more
Rhone Tiny House-Style Pop-Up Store Hits the Road for U.S. Tour
rhone pop up

East Coast activewear brand Rhone is known for quality shorts, shirts and anything else you’d need to get your sweat on. While their workout gear has only been available online and in select brick & mortar stores since the company’s start in 2014, they’ve opened a limited engagement store in New York City and launched Rhone pop-up tour in a tiny home they’re calling Walden House.

The NYC store is a 247-square-foot shop in Brookfield Place near Battery Park featuring vintage and repurposed elements to match the ethos of the company. Walden House is an even smaller retail space (192 square feet) modeled in the tiny house-style and completely towable by truck. The store features reclaimed wood, organic materials, and other energy-saving features within the footprint that’s meant to invite plenty of natural light.

Read more
Working out at a gym is overrated: The best at-home workout equipment for men
Check out all the at-home workout equipment you need for the ultimate home gym
Shirtless man exercising at home.

Working out in the comfort of your own home easily tops going to the gym when it comes to convenience, time efficiency, and privacy (you can blare your own music unapologetically, too). And, rather than be subjected to the temperature and vibe of a jam-packed gym, you’re able to fully customize the environment of your home workout space according to your preferences, fitness goals, and needs.

However, if you want the functionality and options you get at the gym, you have to invest the money and space to equip your home workout space with the exercise equipment you need. The good news is that the increasing popularity of working out at home in recent years has driven an explosion of high-quality, commercial-grade home exercise equipment with functionality and features that rival what you get with a hefty gym membership fee. With such a wide range of options available, you can outfit your home gym with all your favorite exercise equipment and have varied, challenging, and effective workouts right from the comfort of your own home.

Read more