Want to hit up an endorphin high, run the city or sweat with some of the best in the world? Women’s Health editor, Danielle Weakley, gets to do it – and still call it work…
Top 10 Fit Cities around the World
1 NEW YORK, USA
It’s the birthplace of fitspo, but more than that, it is home to SoulCycle – the endorphin-busting spinning class that makes good, old-fashioned regular cycling positively tame by comparison. Genius is that NYC’s fitness is focused around two areas. There’s Central Park for the outdoorsy types. I love the running route around the Jackie O Reservoir, as much for the city views as the coffee stop that’s just outside, which is housed inside a crypt and marvellously entitled The Heavenly Rest Stop. For boutique fitness, I head straight for Flatiron, which sandwiches legendary fit spots, SoulCycle and Y7 yoga, with luxe athletica… A legging is just a legging, until you enter the hallowed confines of Lululemon and a smoothie is just a smoothie until you’ve tried the superfoodiest acai bowl at Juice Press. Be warned, though, both are better for your butt than your budget.
2 LOS ANGELES, USA
Back in ’98, trainer Barry Jay flung open the doors of the gym that launched a fitness revolution – Barry’s Bootcamp. It is the OG high-intensity workout that combines treadmills with tears, music and red light. I still love Barry’s – even though I’m inclined to quieter yogi vibes – but LA has chilled dramatically in terms of its fitness zeitgeist since he first hit the scene. The shift to holistic wellness means you should book a guided rooftop meditation at the achingly hip Ace Hotel or indulge in the wellness benefits of massage – better sleep, less anxiety, improved circulation – at much-buzzed The Now. It’s no ordinary sanctuary, but the most serene white-on-white-on-raw-wood-on-cacti massage space you’ll ever clap eyes or healing crystals on.
3 LONDON, United Kingdom
At first glance, you wouldn’t imagine London to be packaged as a fitster’s dream city, but you need only set foot in Brit favourite Sweaty Betty’s flagship store at 1 Carnaby Street to be proved wrong. It’s athleisure at its absolute finest – a ground floor packed with the signature active-active-activewear – with two further floors that give you every reason to get changed – an in-store studio hosting free exercise classes all day (stay for the TRX sesh) and a pop-up branch of Farm Girl Café to give your athleisure what it really wants – the chance to see and be seen. Retailer masquerading as wellness studio is a big trend and never more so than in this city. My two all-time favourite department stores both play host to wellness pop-ups. At Liberty London, there’s Reset with cardio classes from Frame, amongst others – check them out! – while over at Selfridges there’s The Wellery and the legendary Hemsley sisters’ first café, which is not to be missed for its Ayurvedic turmeric sunshine latte. Really.
4 SYDNEY, Australia
It’s not for nothing that Australia is the home country of many of the world’s biggest fit stars – Kayla Itsines, Emily Skye and Sarah Kohan are all Aussie babes. Just Google them, they’re megawatt powerhouses on Instagram and regulars on Forbes’ Top Ten Influencer Lists… Then there’s Lorna Jane for the gear and Taline Gabrielian – a woman who is building a raw food empire on beautifully shot unicorn smoothies and mermaid toast, which are whipped up with her all-natural plant-based powders. Sydney is all this and more – Bondi is your best bet for beach runs, morning yoga and health cafes. If you can’t face a rainbow-hued smoothie, I’d head straight to The Nine for avo toast. Although it is served up with a side of seaweed foraged from that section of the beach.
5 CAPE TOWN, South Africa
No round-up of healthy cities is complete without Cape Town. It’s the flashpoint of fitness trends for South Africa… Local favourites like Switch Playground and SWEAT 1000 have crossed the ocean, both establishing US HQs in New York and Houston respectively, but in Cape Town you still get to pick up a class with the fit founders on the regular.
6 UBUD, Bali
Ubud is ground zero for yogis. Set against the backdrop of the lush rice paddies, it is the home of The Yoga Barn – a destination yoga centre that has enthusiasts, like the Women’s Health team, flocking from across the globe to take up the more than 100 classes it offers every week, amongst many other healing practices. Plus, you can pack a 200-hour yoga teacher training into an intensive three-week Bali break.
7 AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands
It’s not just me who rates Amsterdam as one of the world’s healthiest cities. The surveys quote the fantastic work-life balance, but I’ll tell you that it’s the ability to so easily explore every part of the city by bike that swings my vote. Forget the zesty yellow tourist bicycles and find Bike4U that rents classic Dutch city bikes from brands like Gazelle, Batavus and Union.
8 HONG KONG, China
There’s no doubt that Hong Kong’s yoga scene is the best-looking in the world. The studios are straight out of a design bible and the instructors from the pages of Vogue, but it is equally brilliant for its wellness festivals. Time it right and you will catch Evolution Asia – the excellent June yoga conference – or The Iris: Your Escape Festival, every second September.
9 BERLIN, Germany
I’m more of a Parkrun 5km kinda girl, but if you’re into long distances then the Berlin Marathon is one of the biggest, fastest and flattest marathons in the world, plus the weather is usually perfect. Don’t rate yourself as much of an Eliud Kipchoge? Parkrun launched in Germany this year and you can pick up a Saturday route at Hasenheide Park with your globally recognised run barcode.
10 LISBON, Portugal
I am such a sucker for this city, so based on no actual running, but a lot of sunshine and green olives, it gets my vote. The Lisbon Marathon and Half Marathon kick off at a very respectable 8am in Cascais and then follow the coastal road passing through smaller villages and World Heritage Sites before ending in Commerce Square on the banks of the Tagus.