Study: Geography, Wealth Key in Fitness Divide

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The divide between those who are able to stay fit and those who are not is clearly split along geographic and socioeconomic lines.

That’s the conclusion of a location analysis conducted by Richard Florida and Charlotta Mellander over at CityLab. The pair looked at the availability of fitness venues — gyms, workout centers, pools, tennis clubs and ice skating rinks — in metro areas across the country as it relates the concentration of fitness employees. The analysis is based on data from 2015.

The study looked at more than 300 metro areas and found the highest concentrations of fitness employees in affluent, smaller metros, including a combination of outdoorsy sports-oriented places and college towns like Grants Pass and Bend, Oregon; Bremerton, Washington; Missoula, Montana; State College, Pennsylvania; Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo, California; Burlington, Vermont; Boulder, Colorado; and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

From AB: Addressing Inactivity Among Low-Income Communities 

Places with the smallest concentrations of fitness professionals were smaller, economically distressed “parts of the South like Pine Bluffs, Arkansas; economically hard-hit Rustbelt metros like Flint, Michigan, and Weirton, West Virginia; and Sunbelt retirement communities like The Villages, Florida." 

The findings track closely with key characteristics of wealthier areas including income, education and skilled occupations. 

“Fitness-center availability is a feature of more innovative, high-tech metros as well,” stated a report from Florida on the study. “Our measure is positively associated with greater concentrations of science and technology workers (.34) and higher levels of innovation, measured by number of patents (.42). Fitness-venue availability is also associated with the share of workers in arts, culture, and media industries (.31).” 

Other findings relate to how people commute in fitness-rich cities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, commuters in those areas with higher concentrations of fitness venues and fitness professionals bike more and drive less. 

The report is the first in a two-part series on fitness in America.

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