The City of Austin: A Healthy Transformation

By AFM – February 1, 2014
Photography by

 Taking a look at how Texans (and the nation) keep Austin fit

Being active in Austin seems to come naturally. With about 300 days of sunshine and an average temperature of 68 degrees, Austin also boasts a generous Central Texas landscape that invites cyclists and stand-up paddle boarders, runners, and leisurely canoe paddlers to get out and get fit.

ATXAustin is Ranked…
one of the “top 10 cities for runners” (Forbes Magazine in 2012)
No. 1 among America’s Fastest Growing Cities (Forbes April 2012)
among the healthiest cities in America ( Travel May 2012)
as the fourth healthiest city for women (Women’s Health, January 2012)

Austin residents like their vegetables, according to GrubHub Inc. In a ranking of the ten most vegetarian-friendly cities in the United States, Austin took the No. 6 spot, behind Seattle, San Jose, San Diego, Houston, and Dallas. 

The American College of Sport Medicine ranks Austin the 11th Fittest City in America and No. 1 fittest city in Texas in their latest American Fitness Index  (May 2013)

Previous rankings American Fitness Index
(American College of Sports Medicine)
2012: No. 11
2011: No. 16
2010: No. 10
2009: No. 9
2008: No. 9

Austin has hosted events for almost every sport you can think of, including the Ironman 70.3 Austin, USA Volleyball Boys National Championships, NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving National Championships, and the Davis Cup.

And there’s more on the horizon…

xGamesX Games 

ESPN, the leading action sports content provider and creator of the X Games, has chosen Austin as the next North American location for the X Games. The Texas capital will host an X Games summer event for four years beginning in June 2014 at the new 1,500-acre Circuit of The Americas sports and entertainment complex in southeast Austin.  

Circuit of The Americas/Formula 1  

Circuit of The Americas is a multi-purpose facility that hosts the most prestigious racing events in the world, including the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix. It is the first and only purpose-built Grand Prix facility in the U.S. 

Austin Marathon and Half Marathon

Feb. 16, 2014
The Austin Marathon and Half Marathon is one of the largest combined marathon and half marathons in the United States. It has hosted runners from all 50 states and more than 30 countries around the world. The race began as the Motorola Marathon in 1992 with 605 marathon runners and, in 2013, hosted more than 15,000 runners in the marathon and half marathon categories. 

NCAA Men's Swimming & Diving Championships

 March 27-29, 2014
The University of Texas and the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center welcomes the 2014 NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships for the eighth time overall and for the first time since 2003.

USA Cycling Cyclo-Cross National Championships

 January 2015
The Championships are open to all UA Cycling Masters (30+), Junior (18 and under), Elite, U23 (19-22), and Collegiate D1 and D2. Over 1,800 athletes
will compete in Austin's Zilker Park.

AustinDallasHoustonEverybody likes options, and growth has assured Austin’s fit-focused community plenty of those. From outdoor boot camps to yoga studios, indoor cycle camps to garage boxing gyms, there are plenty of settings and personalties to please a diverse exercise appetite.  

Here’s a look at the number of “Fitness and Recreational Sports Centers” and population figures, and how Austin compares to more population-dense neighbors Dallas and Houston. 


river-walkThe Boardwalk Trail at Lady Bird Lake

Perhaps there is no place more recognized and associated with Austin’s fitness fabric than the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake. A crushed granite trail of 10 miles that meanders along the water’s edge, this pathway represents the very essence of the city’s fit culture—an eclectic collection of people, enjoying outdoor recreation in scenic setting.  
Austin’s reputation as a resource for the healthy and health-minded has, in essence, grown with the trail. In the 1960s and 70s, the very river banks that today host sun-soaked sweat sessions were barren, if not polluted and covered with weeds. “It was a very different place,” said Susan Rankin, president of The Trail Foundation. “There weren’t that many dogs or that many people using the trail. There was nobody.”
The trail was part of the vision of Lady Bird Johnson and other community leaders who led the efforts to beautify the shores of the central city lake. That same sense of community and responsibility endures today, and the Boardwalk Trail is representative of those efforts. Projected to be complete in June, the boardwalk will connect the current end of the trail by the Austin American-Statesman building to Lakeshore Park.


"Austin is lucky to have a core group of a few thousand citizen-athletes who, for the past few decades, have demonstrated on a daily basis what a fit lifestyle looks like.
Sadly, Austin has a history of schizophrenia when it comes to dealing with inevitable growth. People want Austin to be the most attractive city possible that won't attract anybody. That’s not how it works. Envision Central Texas was the only honest exercise (in planning for this growth), as it acknowledged that we're going to double in population over the next 25 years.
The good news is the growth is disproportionately made up of young people, particularly 25–34 year olds. They want to live in the urban core, and they don't want to have to rely on a car to enjoy living in Austin.

If we were smart and planned for it, in 2024 we will be dramatically more dense. That is, a lot more people living a lot closer to where they work, shop, play, worship, go to school, workout, etc. Tens of thousands of trips per day that used to be done by car would then be done on foot, bike, or masstransit. And our urban green spaces will be even more precious to us—and, therefore, cared for better. That will equate to more facilities and opportunities for people to be outdoors staying fit."

— former mayor Will Wynn

Wynn served as Austin mayor from 2003-09 and is a local leader in shifting the community toward the national green-building movement.



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