Fitbit Ranks States for Summer vs. Winter Steps

Fitbit Flex Activity Data on App
Fitbit Flex Activity Data on App. Bruce Gifford/Moment Mobile/Getty Images

Where should you live so you don't hibernate during the winter? Fitbit crunched the data from 2012-2014 to show where the winter weather freezes people in their steps vs. the states where people keep stepping all year long.

Winter Step Winners

The results had some surprises, as it doesn't look like just the weather is at work. Two cold states made the top five for winter step counts. Here are the rankings for 50 states plus DC.

  1. New York: Average 7734 steps per day in winter. Nothing keeps New Yorkers from logging their daily steps. The dense urban environment and car-free lifestyle of New York City encourages (or shall we say forces?) walking, even with the average winter temperature of 25F degrees.
  2. California: Do you wish you were a California girl? They almost matched New York, so the data came down to fractions at 7734 steps per day in winter. With an average temperature of 48F, there was little excuse to say it was too cold to walk.
  3. Hawaii: At a perfect average temperature of 75F in "winter" Hawaiians logged an average 7671 steps per day. Seriously, their winter temperature beat the summer average in many states.
  4. District of Columbia: The district is another dense urban walkable environment with car-free commuting. They averaged 7610 steps per day in winter. Fitbit didn't break out whether the reds or the blues (Republicans vs. Democrats) logged more steps, although about the only thing they agree on is that Americans need more physical activity.
  5. Minnesota: Too cold to walk? I think not, as the average temperature of 16F didn't keep Minnesotans from logging an average of 7486 steps per day. Maybe they all have treadmills or they do a lot of skiing and snowshoeing? Obviously, they know how to dress to walk in cold weather.
  6. Massachusetts: 7477 average daily steps in winter. Although cold, this state also has dense, walkable cities such a Boston. They also enjoy hockey, one of the leading winter activities logged on Fitbits.
  7. Arizona: 7452 steps per day in a state where winter is a lovely average of 46F. They flip flop in summer, where the sweltering heat keeps them ranked #48 out of 50 states with only an average of 26 more steps per day (probably another trip to the refrigerator for a cold drink).
  8. Wisconsin: Another brutally cold state with an average temperature of 20F doesn't let winter hole them up as they log an average of 7426 steps.
  9. Oregon: At an average of 7418 steps per day and a 36F winter temperature average, those in my home state know how to dress for walking in the rain during their mild winters. Plus, we have mountains for skiing and snowboarding.
  10. Illinois: Big cities, big steps. At an average of 7410 steps and 30F temperatures, they round out the swath of upper Midwestern states that don't let winter keep them down.

Winter Step Losers

Sorry to say, but a swath of states across the Mid-South logged the fewest steps in winter.

  • 51. West Virginia: 6720 steps per day.
  • 50. Arkansas: 6824, and they also ranked at #50 for summer steps.
  • 49. Oklahoma: 6961 steps per day.
  • 48. Alabama: 6961 steps per day.
  • 47. Mississippi: 6965 steps per day.

There is a difference of only 1000 steps per day between the best states and the worst states. You could walk 1000 steps in 10 minutes or less. Small changes in the walking environment and culture could boost steps and lift the worst states into the best category.

Keep in mind that this data was from users who committed to wearing a pedometer or fitness band. It doesn't include people who are not motivated to track their steps. It is likely that the general population of each state logs significantly fewer steps than those who wear a Fitbit.

Top Winter Activities

Besides racking up daily steps, Fitbit users can log workouts via the app or online dashboard. The winter activities most often logged were skiing, snowboarding, and hockey. These activities probably help raise the average steps in the colder states, while watching rather than playing football might have kept people indoors and inactive in other states.

Summer Step Winners

Every state walked more in the summer than in the winter, but in some states the gap was wider than for others.

  1. New York: They rule both summer and winter with an average of 8807 steps per day in summer and an average temperature of 64F. With New York and its environs being a top walkable city, they can't let a little sweat keep them indoors.
  2. Minnesota: Average 8675 steps per day and 64F temperature. Minnesotans keep active in all seasons as they were #5 in the winter.
  3. Wisconsin: Average of 8658 steps per day in summer and 64F average temperature. Like Minnesota, they move about 14% more in summer vs. winter but make the top 10 states for both seasons.
  4. Massachusetts: 8633 average daily steps in summer, which is 13% more than their winter steps (when they rank #4). Boston and other walkable cities in the state also have a big culture for walking and running.
  5. District of Columbia: They make the top five in summer as well as winter, with 8605 steps per day in summer and 72F average temperature. The walkable urban lifestyle of those who live in DC ensures they keep moving, even if nothing moves through Congress. They deserve kudos for staying active through DC's high humidity.
  6. Vermont: 8520 steps per day in summer brings them up from their above-average winter performance. All states bordering Vermont also place in the top 10, showing the effects of the activity-friendly summer climate in the Northeast.
  7. Illinois: 8456 steps per day in summer and 71F temperature. They place in the top 10 for both winter and summer, moving all year long.
  8. New Hampshire: 8446 steps per day and 63F average temperature.
  9. Maine: 8443 steps per day and 61F average temperature.
  10. Connecticut: 8347 steps per day and 67F average temperature.

Summer Step Losers

It's not surprising that the Fitbit map shows the Southern states logging the fewest steps in the summer, although they all logged more in summer than in winter.

  • 51. Florida: 7340 steps per day in summer, which was only 77 more steps per day than they walked in winter. The average temperature of 80F and high humidity are probably to blame. Of the states at the bottom of the list, Florida is one of the most consistent year-round, logging 7417 in the winter for 18th place.
  • 50. Arkansas: 7400 steps per day in summer, which is 576 more steps than they log in winter, when they also rank at #50.
  • 49. Louisiana: 7473 steps per day, just 4% more than they walk in winter.
  • 48. Arizona: They take a huge drop in rank from winter at #7, with 7478 average steps per day in summer. That's only 26 more steps per day than they log in winter. The average temperature of 77F leaves little of the day pleasant for walking outdoors, but they certainly can't blame any humidity - it's a dry heat.
  • 47. Alabama: 7494 steps per day in the sweltering summer, just a little more than 500 steps per day over their low ranking in winter at #48.

The difference between the top state and the bottom state was 1500 steps, which is about one 15-minute walk per day. Just a small change in lifestyle could boost the least-active states into the winner category.

Even at the low 7340 steps per day, the Fitbit wearers were winners for being active. They likely get in much more activity than those in their state who don't wear a pedometer. A survey of average daily steps found the average was far lower than that number.

The milestone of 10,000 steps per day wasn't achieved on average by any of the states in the Fitbit data. It would take only a little over 1 mile of walking each day to boost the lowest states to 10,000 steps, and only half a mile for New York.

Top Summer Activities

Walking steps are the biggest contributors to the step totals on Fitbit. But users can log or tag other activities. The top summer activities they tagged were hiking, baseball, biking, golfing, running, surfing and swimming.

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