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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.

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