Getting fit isn't exactly easy. That's why it's such a common New Year's resolution. But in addition to the hard work of working out, it's possible that where we live might be making it even more difficult.
That's according to a recent WalletHub study, which named Bakersfield the third worst city for an active lifestyle. Comparing 100 of the most populated cities in the country, the study looked at factors across two dimensions: "Budget & Participation" and "Sports & Outdoors." Our city ranked 90 and 100 in those, respectively, bringing our overall score to 98 out of 100.
But on a nice Sunday afternoon in January, a clear and cool day following rain the previous evening, the Park at River Walk was bustling. Kids played in the playground, a handful of people fished and bicyclists, runners and walkers alike took to the path for some exercise. Not quite the picture of the third worst city for an active lifestyle.
"I think we'd be more like in the 80s," said Kerreane Lowrey, who was at the park with her nieces. "It's sad. Wouldn't you rather be somewhere in the middle?"
The study breaks down the "Budget & Participation" dimension by scoring points based on factors like the average monthly fitness club fee, the cost of sports apparel and various activities, the number of sporting goods stores and clubs per capita and the share of physically inactive adults.
For its "Sports & Outdoors" dimension, it looked at factors like the number of basketball hoops, baseball/softball diamonds, soccer fields, swimming pools, playgrounds, ice-skating rinks and dance schools per capita, as well as a city's walking trails, proximity to the ocean and access to exercise opportunities.
"We don't have a lot of outside things to do," Lowrey said. "We don't have the waterpark like when I was a kid."
Still, that doesn't stop Lowrey and her family from keeping active. With her nieces and friend Natalia Vasquez at the park on Sunday, Lowrey said the group was finding their own fun and fitness just being outside. Vasquez led the girls in some exercises, and the sisters sometimes do competitions, like who can do the most cartwheels.
Within the study's "Sports & Outdoors" dimension, weather and air quality were also considered. Based on WalletHub's "Cities with the Best & Worst Weather" study, it seems to consider Bakersfield to have some of the best weather, both year-round and for each of the four seasons.
But anyone who has been in Bakersfield in the summer knows warm weather isn't always a good thing. Those triple-digit temperatures and the city's notoriously bad air quality often keep people inside.
"That's why we have a treadmill at home," said Becky Thomas, who was walking on the park's path with her husband, Jimmy Thomas. "It depends on the weather ... usually we go somewhere to walk, three to five times a week. It's cheap. It doesn't cost anything."
As cost was considered as part of the study's methodology, the Thomases wondered if activity prices in Bakersfield were perhaps higher than in other cities.
Lisette Chavez, at the park with her sons on Sunday, also wondered if maybe costs were higher here because there aren't as many options for different kinds of activities and sports. Still, she and her family are committed to being active and find ways to exercise regardless of options, cost or weather.
"I think it's motivation," she said. "We have a few gyms and they're not overcrowded."
Though she and her sons were at the park working out that day, Chavez said going there isn't a regular thing for them.
"This is probably one of the first times (we've been to the park)," Chavez said, noting that they often work out at home or at the gym because of the weather and air quality. "We go to the gym lately. We don't run outside much. We did today because of the rain yesterday."
JeAnna Brumfield was at the park with her husband and their sons, watching the younger boy on the playground after a family bike ride. Told about the study, she said it seemed fair, all things considered.
"We deal with extreme heat in the summer, and when we do have a nice day, it's a bad air day," she said. However, she added, "We do have bad air quality days but we don't take advantage of times when it's not."
So, which cities have Bakersfield beat? WalletHub ranks Honolulu as the best city, with a ranking of 47 in "Budget & Participation" and 1 in "Sports & Outdoors." Chicago is second, with a ranking of 56 in the first dimension and 2 in the second. San Francisco is third (55, 3), Portland, Ore. is fourth (1, 7) and Seattle is fifth (26, 5).
Fresno ranks higher than Bakersfield but not by much, coming in at 96 overall. It ranked at 67 in "Budget & Participation" and 98 in "Sports & Outdoors."