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10 Fit Cities

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What makes a city great? Ask that question to 100 men, and you’ll probably get a wide range of responses. 

Maybe it’s the sports scene, the food, the culture or perhaps even the climate. While hundreds of different features can factor into what makes a city special, you’ll rarely hear fitness level as one of the make-or-break criteria. But why not? If you’re a fitness freak, you know just how important it is to have a committed workout partner. So why not choose a city that’s full of potential partners?

Well, now you can.

Read on as AskMen outlines the top 10 list of America’s fittest cities, ranked according to the American Fitness Index.

1. Sacramento, Calif.

• AFI score: 65.3
• Percent obese: 25.9%
• Percent active: 53.2%

Kicking off our top ten fittest cities is Sacramento, the capital of California. A city renowned for its activity options, Sacramento caters to the exercise-obsessed thanks in part to its geographical location, being seated at the confluence of two fitness-friendly rivers: the American River and the Sacramento River. Activity seekers can spend the day walking through Old Sacramento, kayaking the American River or biking the many shady paths alongside Sacramento’s boat-infested waterways.

2. Virginia Beach, Va.

• AFI score: 65.8
• Percent obese: 24.1%
• Percent active: 52.5%

Moving from the American River to the Atlantic, we find one of the most popular getaways on the Eastern seaboard: Virginia Beach. With 20 continuous miles of soft sand, a 59-block concrete boardwalk, the surfer-friendly waters of the Atlantic Ocean beating at its shores, and more acres of parkland than any of our other top 10 fittest cities, Virginia Beach deserves recognition as more than just a beach resort town -- it’s a proper activity-seeker’s paradise.

3. Seattle, Wash.

• AFI score: 66.5
• Percent obese: 23.9%
• Percent active: 50.3%

Jumping from the East back to the West, another fitness haven is Seattle, the largest city in the Pacific Northwest. With the sparkling waters of Elliot Bay, Lake Union and Lake Washington wrapped around it and the snowcapped Mount Rainier just to its east, Seattle is teeming with opportunity for outdoor activity accessible year-round thanks to mild Pacific temperatures (that is, if you can stand the rain!).

4. Hartford, Conn.

• AFI score: 66.8
• Percent obese: 21.6%
• Percent active: 55.5%

Nicknamed the “insurance capital of the world,” Hartford is one of few American economic hot spots burning brightly during tough economic times. In 2010, Hartford ranked second, behind only San Francisco, in per capita economic activity. Along with bustling economic activity, Hartford also knows how to get fit, falling within the top 3 of our top 10 cities in terms of the number of recreation centers and swimming pools per population. Amazingly, Hartford also boasts the most farmers’ markets of any of the 50 cities surveyed, topping out at a jaw-dropping 49 markets in total!

5. San Francisco, Calif.

• AFI score: 66.8
• Percent obese: 18.1%
• Percent active: 48.6%

A mix of big-city buzz and laid-back California charisma, San Francisco is North America’s answer to Europe -- the “Paris of the West.” Unlike landlocked Paris, San Francisco sits on a peninsula surrounded by bright blue waters, setting a perfect backdrop for an afternoon run in one of San Fran’s many beachside parks. Add in the 50-plus city hills that make any walk a workout, and it becomes pretty clear why San Francisco rates so high on the activity index.

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6. Denver, Colo.

• AFI score: 67.6
• Percent obese: 18.8%
• Percent active: 55.8%

Bordered by the snowcapped Rocky Mountains, Denver is a city unlike any other, offering the perfect mix of outdoor sport, fine arts and shopping. With the second most active population among all 50 cities surveyed by the • AFI, Denver is a fitness freak’s paradise. The surrounding mountains afford limitless activities -- hiking, climbing, skiing, kayaking, and camping -- while the city itself offers some of America’s best museums and cultural centers alongside some old-fashioned Western steak houses.

7. Portland, Ore.

• AFI score: 67.7
• Percent obese: 24.0%
• Percent active: 54.7%

Just failing to crack the top 3 is Portland, Oregon, a city known for its rose gardens and freakishly fit residents. As one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the world, Portland houses a comprehensive system of light rail and buses along with 92,000 acres of green space and more than 74 miles of hiking, running and biking trials, making it one of the most foot-friendly cities in the world (let alone the United States). Dog lovers, take note: Portland also boasts more dog parks than any of the other 49 cities surveyed in the • AFI!

8. Boston, Mass.

• AFI score: 69.1
• Percent obese: 21.1%
• Percent active: 47.5%

Boston is a sportsman’s paradise. Home to the  Boston Marathon -- the oldest annual city marathon in the world -- as well as the Bruins, Celtics, New England Patriots, and Red Sox,Boston is arguably the most successful sporting city in North America (and probably the world). And who knows? Maybe all that sport success is rubbing off on its residents, earning Boston the title of third fittest city in America!

9 .Washington, D.C.

• AFI score: 76.8
• Percent obese: 21.4%
• Percent active: 48.4%

If power is your pleasure, look no farther than Washington, D.C., a city swimming in seductive symbols of power and politics: the Capitol building, the Pentagon, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, hundreds of foreign embassies, as well as the headquarters of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Yet for a city that’s drunk with power, its residents sure know how to stay fit. Littered with shady parks and backed by a strong public transportation system, Washington is a city that caters to the fit-obsessed, topped with an eclectic restaurant scene that’ll put the world on your plate.

10. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.

• AFI score: 77.2
• Percent obese: 23.8%
• Percent active: 54.5%

Nicknamed the “City of Lakes,” Minneapolis, combined with its twin, St. Paul, form a megacity that’s abundantly rich in water and water sports, thanks to several dozen lakes, wetlands and the mighty Mississippi. On the other hand, it gets cold around here, mate. Thanks in part to its northerly location and a lack of large bodies of water nearby, the Twin Cities are blasted by freezing cold Arctic air each and every winter. But the cold weather helps pave the way for some awesome winter activities, like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, and of course, hockey. It just goes to show you, even in the cold, folks can stay fit!