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Sweat in the City: The best cities for fitness in the UK and Europe

15 Dec | BY Betway Insider | MIN READ TIME |
Sweat in the City: The best cities for fitness in the UK and Europe

Betway’s latest research has revealed the best cities in the UK for fitness fanatics, and where is popular for home workouts.

Sweat in the City: The best cities for fitness in the UK and Europe

With over half a million monthly Google searches for gym-related queries in the UK, there’s no doubt that we are a nation of fitness lovers. Whether you’re just getting back into running, or are looking to up your intensity at the gym, what better time to begin a new fitness regime than at the start of a new year! But, which are the best UK cities for fitness fanatics? 

To find out, the sports betting team at Betway has conducted new research, analysing 30 of the most populated cities in the UK, to determine which is the best place for those who like to stay active. The research looked at several factors, including the number of gyms, the price of a monthly gym membership, the number of walks, the quality of air and green space, the amount of people searching for gyms or home workouts, as well as how many adults are physically active in each location. 

The study has also looked at which cities in Europe are best for those who might like to exercise a little further afield. 

The top 10 best cities in the UK for fitness

1. Manchester

Taking the crown as the best city for fitness fanatics is Manchester. Two-thirds (64%) of adults in the city are considered physically active, and lots of residents are interested in gyms in the area, with 1,112 yearly Google searches per 100,000 people for ‘gyms near me’ — the most of any city analysed. 

For those who enjoy an indoor fitness session, there are 47 different gyms in Manchester, which equates to around 12 gyms per 100,000 people. Plus, if exercising out in nature is more your style, there are a huge 144 walks per 100,000 people in the area. The city is also less than an hour from the Peak District, which is full of hundreds of beautiful hiking trails.

Manchester is also known as the home of British cycling, with the National Cycling Centre located just outside the city centre. Not only can you try out track cycling, BMXing, and mountain biking here, but the centre also boasts a fully sprung wooden floor in the middle of the indoor track, featuring badminton, netball, basketball, and futsal courts. 

2. Leeds

In second place is Leeds. The northern city might have only 18 walks per 100,000 people on offer, but the quality of its green space is rated relatively high, with a score of 70 out of 100. 

Not everyone wants to hit the gym or head outdoors for their daily exercise, and Leeds has the highest number of people searching for home workouts of all cities analysed, at 20 searches per 100,000 people every month. 

Even more adults in Leeds are considered physically active (69%) than in Manchester, though there are significantly less people looking into gyms in the city, with 637 yearly searches per 100,000 people. 

For those looking to get into long-distance running this year, 2023 saw the first ever Rob Burrows Leeds Marathon take place, honouring the Leeds Rhinos legend. The race is back for 2024 and takes in some of the area’s most scenic countryside, before finishing at Headingley Stadium. 

3. Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes has come in third. The city is great for those who like to get out in nature, with the second best air quality score of all cities analysed (87 out of 100). 

The quality of its green spaces is also rated a huge 93 out of 100 — the highest of all cities in the study, however there are only 22 walks per 100,000 people to choose from in Milton Keynes. 

Perfect for those into racket sports, Milton Keynes is home to the National Badminton Centre, which also has two different gyms on offer. 

4. Bristol

With 17 gyms per every 100,000 residents across the city, Bristol has come in fourth place. Three-quarters of adult residents in the city are physically active, and the city sees around 712 yearly enquiries about local gyms per every 100,000 people. 

Bristol also has 137 walking trails to choose from (though this does equate to just 20 per 100,000 people) and its green spaces are rated 73 out of 100 for their quality. In particular, Leigh Woods and Ashton Court are popular walking spots in the city. 

5. Oxford

Rounding off the top five cities for fitness fanatics is Oxford. The city has 11 gyms for every 100,000 people to choose from, and 76% of adult residents are considered physically active. 

Oxford also ranks high for its outdoor offerings. The city boasts 33 different walks for every 100,000 people, and has a rating of 88 for the quality of its green spaces. Its air quality is also pretty good, with a score of 80 out of 100. 

In particular, Oxford is close to the Cotswolds and the North Wessex Downs, which are both full of scenic walks and plenty of trail running routes to enjoy. 

The best cities in the UK for home workouts

With winter well underway, some of us might not be sold on the idea of heading out in the cold for a run or hike. With this in mind, we’ve also taken a look at which cities in the UK are the best for home workouts, using Google search volume data. 

Popular home workouts for 2024 

Taking the top spot for the best city for home workouts is Leeds. Whether they’re looking for a quick HIIT class or a relaxing yoga video, there are around 20 yearly Google searches per every 100,000 people for home workout inspiration in the city. Closely following behind is Manchester with 18 searches per 100,000 people. 

Edinburgh (15 per 100,000), Birmingham (14 per 100,000), and London (13 per 100,000) round off the top five best cities for those looking to work out at home. 

The top 10 cities in Europe for fitness

For those looking to exercise a little further afield, we’ve also looked at where in Europe is the best for fitness fanatics. The study took into account the price of gym memberships, the air and green space quality, the cost of bottled water, the number of walks, and the number of sunshine hours in each city. 

1. Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon has ranked as the number one city in Europe for those who like to stay active. The perfect place for those who enjoy exercising outside, the Portugese city sees around 2,799 hours of sunshine each year — the most of any European city analysed. 

The city’s air quality (79) and green spaces (70) are also rated relatively high, and there are 27 walks per every 100,000 people on offer in the city. 

Lisbon is also full of parks, so whether you’re running around Quinta das Conchas e dos Lilases Park, or hitting the climbing wall at Monsanto Park, you’re sure to find the ideal place to take your fitness regime outdoors. 

2. Stockholm, Sweden

In second place is Stockholm in Sweden. Boasting even cleaner air than Lisbon, with a score of 84, plus a higher quality of green space (86), the Swedish city is another great place to spend time outdoors. 

The city boasts a huge 51 walks per 100,000 people, which is the highest amount of any European city analysed. However, it does see much less sunshine than Lisbon, around 1,821 hours per year.

For those looking to switch up their usual indoor routine, Stockholm actually has 80 open-air gyms located around the city. The gyms are all open to the public and completely free, so they’re worth checking out if you find yourself in the city. 

3. Vienna, Austria 

Rounding off the top three best cities in Europe for fitness fanatics is Vienna, Austria. Air quality in the city is just slightly lower than in Stockholm, with a score of 83, while its green spaces have been given a quality score of 84. 

There may be only nine walks to choose from per every 100,000 residents, but the city does see 1,930 hours of sunshine each year. 

Some people might want to shake up their usual fitness routine in the new year, and for those who want to hop on four wheels, Vienna is known as a skaters paradise. 

Routes like the 21km-long Danube Island are free from traffic, which means the city is perfect for hours of uninterrupted skating (or cycling if that’s more your style). Plus from May to September the city holds a dedicated Friday Night Skating event, which is free for all to enjoy. So, why not lace up your skates and hit the roads?

Top tips for kick-starting your fitness regime

To help those looking to revitalise their fitness journey as we head into the new year, we’ve put together some top tips for getting started:

1. Set realistic goals

Setting goals for what you want to achieve is important with any fitness regime, but it’s also important to make sure these are achievable. 

Think about what your goals are, and the actual time and resources you have available to you. There’s no point saying you’ll be spending two hours everyday in the gym if you just don’t have the time. Figure out what will work for you and then start setting intentions from there. 

2. Start Slow

Whether you’re a complete beginner, or you’re already active and looking to take things to the next level, it’s important not to go too fast. If you try doing too much too soon this significantly increases your risk of injury, and might also lead to burnout.

Start small, and work your way up, and make sure to also give yourself enough time to rest in between workouts. Remember that progress takes time, and it won’t happen overnight, so be patient with yourself and trust the plan. 

3. Fuel your body

Proper nutrition is key to keeping your body happy and healthy, especially when exercising. Make sure you’ve eaten enough before a workout, and maybe try snacking on a banana or energy bar if you think it’s going to be a particularly intense session.

Also, remember to drink plenty of water. Staying properly hydrated is an essential part of any fitness routine. 

4. Be consistent 

Consistency is key with exercise, and without it you won’t see the results you want. No matter your goals, try to create a schedule for yourself and make sure you stick to it. 

Sometimes it can help to track your progress so you can hold yourself accountable, or you might even want to find a gym or workout buddy who can also help to keep you motivated and on track. 

5. Have fun

Above all, have fun! Exercise shouldn’t be something that you dread, so choose something that you’ll enjoy and will be able to stick to. 

Hate the treadmill? Why not try getting your heart rate up at a spin class instead? Not into lifting weights? Try swapping the gym for a yoga or pilates session. Want to get outside? Why not take up a new sport, maybe football or tennis? 

As we’ve mentioned, the key to seeing results is consistency, so pick something that you think you can keep going with, both in the new year and beyond. 

Methodology and Sources  

Betway pulled together a seedlist of the 30 most populated UK cities. The cities were then ranked according to the following metrics:

Number of gyms 

Price of gyms – monthly membership

Air quality score – out of 100

Green space quality score – out of 100

Number of walks

Number of people searching ‘gyms near me’ – using Google Analytics Keyword Planner

Number of people searching ‘home workouts’ – using Google Analytics Keyword Planner

Percentage of physically active adults 

They also pulled together a seedlist of 30 of the most popular European cities. The cities were then ranked according to the following metrics:

Price of gyms – monthly membership

Air quality score – out of 100

Green space quality score – out of 100

Number of walks

Number of sunshine hours – per year 

Cost of a bottle of water – 0.33 litres 

Betway Insider

Betway Insider

The Insider is an editorial blog for Betway, one of the best betting sites, featuring sporting insight, intelligent comment and informed betting tips for football betting and all other major sports.

Betway Insider

Betway Insider

The Insider is an editorial blog for Betway, one of the best betting sites, featuring sporting insight, intelligent comment and informed betting tips for football betting and all other major sports.