Navigation Menu+

Fitness activity = Economic development.


The Public Health Institute captured the case for fitness = economic development in this poster. Click to enlarge it. Used with permission.

In 2013, after Summersville started featuring fitness and outdoor adventure in its advertising, traffic on the city’s Web site went up 40 percent, according to Summersville Convention and Economic Development director Marianne Taylor.


Every year, Parkersburg closes its streets and turns them into a big park with healthy activities, bringing hundreds of people downtown to patronize the businesses. It was such a success, they now do it once a month, holding a party at a different business every month,giving them a financial boost. (Photo courtesy The OPAM)

Businesses and families want to locate in communities that value fitness, much research shows. West Virginia now has the lowest “wellbeing” measure of any state on Gallup’s annual index. North Dakota has the highest.

Colorado uses its high fitness rankings as an economic development tool. The state cites its healthy workforce and fitness offerings, in attempts to convince businesses from other places to relocate, as this National Public Radio story shows.  The title of the piece is “Businesses seek out areas with culture of health.”

West Virginia doesn’t have to stay on the bottom of the wellness index. The resources on this page can help you convince others that it is in your community’s economic development interest to develop ways residents can more easily adopt healthier lifestyles.

Scroll down. Scan through the resources and research.  Get a sense of possibilities.







Use these great resources!


Mountain biking now brings thousands of people and more thousands of dollars to West Virginia. Here, mountain bikers line up for the start of the Mountwood race, one of more than 25 major West Virginia races.

Mountain biking now brings thousands of people and more thousands of dollars to West Virginia. Here, mountain bikers line up for the start of the Mountwood race, one of more than 25 major West Virginia races. (Photo courtesy The OPAM)

Here’s some solid research:



“All the businesses along the streets closed for Park Day reported that they had had one of the year’s biggest sales days,” said Kim Coram, event organizer and Parkersburg City Council member. Click to enlarge.

  • The potential savings of fitness are enormous. In 2010, Duke paired its “cost of obesity” study with a study that estimates the potential savings of fitness. Major findings:
    • Unless changes are made, there are likely to be 32 million additional obese Americans 20 years from now, a 33 percent increase in obesity and 130 percent increase in severe obesity.
    • Keeping obesity rates level could save nearly $550 billion in medical expenditures over the next two decades. See  “Obesity and Severe Obesity Forecasts through 2030,” the Journal of Preventative Medicine, Finkelstein et al., June 2011.
  • Corporate wellness programs pay off:  “A review of 72 studies published in the American Journal of Health Promotion showed an average return on investment of $3.48 per $1 for corporate wellness programs when considering health care costs alone; $5.82 when examining absenteeism; and $4.30 when both outcomes are considered.”
  • More evidence of the high medical cost of obesity from a 2011 Gallup poll:
  • West Virginia study: “Couch potatoes cost millions.”


    Jefferson County’s annual Freedom’s Run nets about $15,000 each year, which the organizers donate to the schools to pay for fitness trails and other healthy lifestyle projects. Photo courtesy The Martinsburg Journal

  • Potential savings of fitness: “In the 10 cities with the highest obesity rates, the direct costs connected with obesity and obesity-related diseases are roughly $50 million per 100,000 residents. If these 10 cities cut their obesity rates down to the national average, the combined savings to their communities would be $500 million in health care costs each year.”  From the National League of Cities Healthy Communities/Healthy Future project
  • Blueprint Mississippi Health Care: An economic driver. For those who would like to see an example of a  state-level study: Here’s the 2012 Mississippi state study examining the economic impact of people’s health on the economy.
  • Pedestrians and bicyclists tend to spend more money. A study by Advocacy Advance showed that bicyclists and pedestrians spend more money per mile than people in vehicles, perhaps because they can stop more easily to shop.
  • The 2013 American Fitness Index from The American College of Sports Medicine named Minneapolis-St. Paul as the healthiest, fittest cities in the USA for the third year. “What Minneapolis has done brilliantly is put their resources where residents can use them effectively to maintain a high level of physical activity,” Walt Thompson, chairman of the advisory board who created the index and professor of exercise physiology at Georgia State University, told USA Today. “The city spends double the amount of money on parks per capita ($227 a person) as some other cities.”

    BIG PHOTO. Huntington Fitfest

    In the wake of Jamie Oliver, Huntington is turning into a fitness-conscious town: the PATH fitness trail through town, biking and running groups, Create Huntington, high-quality school food, Huntington’s Kitchen and a variety of Fitness events and festivals like Huntington FitFest, pictured here. Photo courtesy the Huntington Herald-Dispatch

  • Physical activity improves productivity. The Lancaster University Study: Multi-business Study of the  Effect of Low Impact Physical Activity on Employee Health and Wellbeing– 2011 has a wealth of information on the impact of physical activity on employee productivity.  See writeup below the picture.








Also see these Try This pages: Healthy food = economic development tool, create a food distribution system, Farm to School, Encourage road biking, Create a running/walking group. Any link under “Fitness: Community” relates to this page.



Have something to add? Write it in “reply” below, with your contact info, in case we have questions.



  1. A list of everything on this site | Try This - […] Fitness activities = economic development […]
  2. Form a healthy community group | Try This - […] Try This pages:  Start a community conversation, fitness = economic development, healthy local food = economic […]
  3. The Remarkable Rise of Freedom’s Run, West Virginia’s Largest Marathon. - […] And to learn more about the connection between fitness activity and economic development, check out the Try This, WV website.…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.