Between the keggers and pizza, it’s tough for a college kid to stay in tip-top shape.
Of course, college students don’t want to be out of shape. Sure, beer is always a good idea, and tailgates should include burgers. But laying around and packing on the pounds? It’s not their jam. Luckily, some of the most-spirited schools are also the some of the most active. They have it all. You can shotgun a PBR in a parking lot before a game, then sweat it off the next day. Now that’s what we call balance.
Look, these 20 schools get it. There are the best college towns for those fit-minded students.
San Luis Obispo, or SLO, is an epic college town, and also happens to be one of the fittest places to live, period. The 287 days of sun are known to cure (most) hangovers as students roll out of bed to hike, kayak, surf, or mountain bike. And the campus has a Health and Wellbeing Center with both physiologists and nutritionists on staff, plus the 20,000-square-foot recreation center. Ready to be impressed? The Rec Center is home to a 20-lap Olympic-sized pool, a leisure pool, a rock climbing park, several basketball courts, multiple volleyball courts, and an indoor track. Oh, and it’s free to all Cal Poly students.
If Austin keeps this up, their new slogan might be Keep Austin Healthy. And with the range of initiatives taking place at University of Texas at Austin, it looks like health is really here to stay. For starters, they’re trading out the regular run-of-the-mill vending machine snacks with healthful options. Plus, they’ve teamed up with local and healthy restaurants to offer great discounts and deals for students. And don’t expect to hack up a lung while racing to class, it’s a smoke-free campus. Breathe freely! Off-campus activities are endless too; between Zilker Park, Fit Cycle initiatives, Big Austin, and Movability Austin, you’ll stay moving every day of the week.
Austin isn’t the only Texas hot spot for college students looking to up their fit game. College Station has practically banned “No Skateboarding” signs and instead embraces the culture, building its own playground for skaters. But that’s not the only park in the city; 50 more open their gates to college students looking to run, bike, or walk off the aftermath from the night before. Heck, the parks are so accessible and so plentiful that College Station was accredited by the Commission for Accreditation of Parks and Recreation, a prestigious award among the recreation community (only ten cities in the whole nation have bragging rights).
Typically, Humboldt County is known for other recreational activities, oftentimes overlooking the health and vitality blazing through the small college town of Arcata, California. The campus of Humboldt State is literally engulfed in the Redwoods. Healthful eats are another prized possession of the Lumberjacks. Yep, Arcata is a hippie town, so expect hippie food. Vegan is not a bad word here. See for yourself at the weekly farmers market in the downtown square — vegan pastries, organic local farmers, and complimentary yoga are hits among the browsers.
UC Davis is a gold-level “Bicycle-Friendly University”, so don’t show up without some wheels! People share the road here; almost all of the main roads have bike lanes so students can arrive on time and safely to their lecture. On campus, it’s not all Pizza Hut and Subway; the cafeteria offers a wide range of locally-grown produce to give Davis attendees a balanced diet. Even on the weekends, the impressive Davis Farmers Market send students away with ready-to-eat meals good for the heart and soul. Packed your sneaks? Join up with the Gold Valley Harriers, a popular run club, and stay for the many charity runs on the calendar.
Boulder is one of those towns that seems to make EVERY list, regardless of the topic. It’s that awesome and fit. The whole city is a playground for college kids looking to get their sweaty adventures on. For starters, it’s one of the best college town for trail running, with Nolan’s 14 showing us what’s up — we are talking 14 peaks, 14,000 feet in elevation, and 100 miles of trailing fun. And Boulder is spoiled with running trails and bike paths for students rushing from their juicery pitstop to their first class of the day. Really, Boulder is so qualified to top this list, they even have a path, specifically designed for pub crawling among craft breweries. College students, strap on your running shoes and work up a thirst along the 15 miles of magical brews.
It’s quaint. It’s spirited. It’s legendary. It’s Chapel Hill, North Carolina. These students are known to duke it out (no pun intended) in their expansive intramural sports program. And no matter how you compete, you’ll definitely want to be in town for their biggest annual fundraiser, Heels for Hope 5K. But even on an average day, the sun shines brightly on the Bolin Creek Trail, where you will find a good portion of UNC’s population squeezing a run in between classes. Meanwhile, legendary watering holes He’s Not Here and Top of the Hill stay packed well into the semester.
The sky is not the only big thing in Montana. The fitness scene in Bozeman is a huge and growing phenomenon. Here, if you are a college kid without a bike, you are a rarity. The biking community links paths from Montana State University to downtown Bozeman, making it simple to grab a beer after class, or heck even before! …okay, so you should probably have a clear head while sitting through lecture, so instead grab a salad from many of the local co-ops slinging healthful selections including vegan and paleo options. In the winter months, don’t expect students to stay in bed on a cold day. Nope, these rock stars hit the slopes, regardless of the temperature or essay deadline.
Hoosiers know how to stay fit, and let’s be honest — they also know how to tailgate. Indiana University doesn’t mess around when it comes to supporting their team but that’s not the only thing they’re serious about. Running is huge here. Maybe it has something to do with the accessibility of land — all 1,933 acres of campus and 1,200 miles of paths and trails. The B-line is the most popular trail among the 50,000 students. It’s a shorty but a goodie — students of Indiana University can knock out the 3.1 miles just before running to class. Plus, with events like Bloomington farmers market’s Annual Tomato Tasting in August, the town keeps getting healthier (and quirkier).
Morgantown is the epitome of college life in our modern world yet still manages to make its historical charm super cool. Brick buildings, greenery, local waterways, and maybe a party or two keep the enrollment steady. But to be fit? Each of the four seasons boasts an activity perfect for a campus escape. For example, summer months are filled with students jumping on trails with over 50 miles of paths in Coopers Rock State Forest. Meanwhile, whitewater rafting, kayaking, and outdoor play areas keep students occupied in early fall and spring too. During the winter months, West Virginia University attendees stay active by downhill and cross-country skiing. They are Mountaineers after all.
The campus (and the town for that matter) is an architectural STUNNER. But that’s not what keeps college-goers active; the 240 acres of greenery, shorefront trails, and blooming flowers sure do. The proximity of downtown to the Northwestern classrooms allow students to catch a happy hour deal before walking or riding it off by the time the professor takes attendance. Fitness assessments are available (for free!) to students while the facilities are top-notch and also included in student tuition (facilities students can get are as big as their student loans).
Picture-perfect college town, Madison, Wisconsin makes fitness absolutely beautiful. Lake Mendota offers a 19-mile run on the lake shore for students who fancy starting their Saturday off with a bang. And if rougher terrain calls to you, know trail running is a way of life here. The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is 1,000 miles of natural paths crisscrossing through several parks and excessive greenery just outside the city. Looking for social fitness? University of Wisconsin Running Club trains for marathons and adventure runs. Not a runner? Attend the Saturday farmers market (one of the biggest and best in US, by the way!). And let’s not forget about the 200 miles of hiking trails at your doorstep. This town has it all.
Harvard and MIT students aren’t just wearing smarty pants, they’re all about the stretchy pants and athletic shorts. Runners can jog along with RunBoston, a touring run club, while walkers can get pretty much anywhere they need to with their own two feet. Danehy River is a killer kayaking destination where you’re bound to work up an appetite. That’s a good thing because` Cambridge is the forerunner of farm-to-table grub. And these brainiacs know what their students need: Harvard’s campus recognizes the importance of having a sound mind-body by offering yoga, meditation, and massages to students.
You’re going to want to get in on the pickup basketball scene here. Ex-players make appearances on the regular to show the world (or campus), they still got it. But when the dunkfest on the court is through, nature takes over. The Arb is a 123-acre conservatory with endless greenery, where disc golf players share the fields with afternoon joggers and hikers, all set to the backdrop of local artists strumming a tune on their guitar. When you need a moment, trade out your book bag for a tote and head to Kerrytown, or more commonly referred to as “hippie town”, where farmers markets and co-ops give students an excuse to be healthy. And if we’re talking traditions, The Ann Arbor Thanksgiving Day Trot is a popular way to sweat around the holidays. Also popular in the fall? Wolverines football games, of course.
This West Coast gem of a college town is full of spirited Ducks supporting their various athletic teams — pick a sport, any sport; you’ll soon see tailgating is a way of life in Eugene. As the birthplace of Nike, no one should be surprised to find impressive gear and an INSANE sports facility. Matthew Knight Arena and the $68 million performance center/football field, Autzen Stadium, serve as an intimidation tactic among rivals stepping into Duck territory. Fun fact: Jogging as a form of exercise was invented here, so you can expect trails, run clubs, and lots of athletes hitting the accessible paths any day of the week. Hungry for health? There are nearly a dozen vegan/vegetarian restaurants while twice as many “regular restaurants” are offering vegan options (it’s a West Coast thing).
This small mountain town is hip, funky, and always down for a thrill. With 17,000 students attending Northern Arizona University (nearly 1/3 of the total population), you can bet the bulk love a good outdoor activity. Flagstaff loves mountain biking, trail running, and hiking, and both the San Francisco Peak and the Grand Canyon are good day trip, while the local mountains offer plenty of fun in the winter to keep the kids local. During the summer months, the mild and dry weather actually allows people to be outside, comfortably! That’s convenient because the 800-mile-long Arizona Trail outlining on the edge of Flagstaff and the urban trail system are begging to be run.
As the saying goes, “Ithaca is gorges!” But really, the gorges are, well, absolutely gorgeous. The Finger Lakes don’t hurt the cause, either. The green hills shaping the state parks invite a good portion of the 20,000 college students residing in Ithaca to come out to play in their natural world of adventure. Most definitely a biking town for fit individuals, the hills seem to come out of nowhere and are known to test one’s endurance and patience, but lead to some amazing features, like the almost-daily farmers market — an awesome selection that’s always nutritious and delicious. And no college town would be complete without an excuse to work out: Beer. The “Collegetown” area is fully loaded with beer joints on every corner and often at prices college students can actually afford.
Visiting the OU campus? Grab your camera and forget the filter — you won’t need it. This stunner of an architectural stud blows most campuses out of the water with its brick buildings and oak tree-lined paths linking lecture halls. Radar and Bong (no, not what you think) are legit hike-able hills close to campus and popular among the student population. And we hope you didn’t put your camera away — Emeriti Park will have you asking yourself, is this real life? The park, with colorful gardens and glistening ponds, is a place for joggers to reflect while breaking a sweat. Okay, so it’s not all beauty and fitness; there is fun too. Court Street draws in the bulk of the 25,000-student population on Saturday night in Athens. It’s where the magic lives in this Midwest gem.
When thinking of fitness and Southern lifestyle, it’s hard to put the two together. Well, think again. Birmingham, Alabama has a lengthy menu of outdoor activities for students. Mountain biking is giant in this spirited college town — the most popular trail among the bunch, Oak Mountain State Park, was named on the list of 52 ‘must-rides’ from the International Mountain Biking Association. You can also jog, sprint, or walk the many urban trails through Birmingham en route to class. A refreshing breath from some other parts of Alabama, University of Birmingham’s Wellness Catering Program offers lunch and learn, fitness assessments, and body fat testing for students.
Don’t count on the Freshman 15 here! The Buckeyes watch what they eat. The dining hall at OSU offers “Buckeye Options”, helping students make healthier choices when it comes to their college eats. This is perfect fuel for the 90 acres of grounds the campus rests on, which can make going to class a leisurely 5K stroll. On campus, there are five fitness facilities that offers aquatics, group fitness, outdoorsy adventure, and training sessions. And there’s certainly plenty of space to move around here — eight miles the Olentangy River Water Trail zigzag through the city for college students wanting to sweat off-campus. OSU, we see you!
We’ll keep you up to date on all things health, fitness and local food in Pittsburgh.