The 10 fittest colleges in America 2014
College—some say it’s the best four years of your life, others say you won’t remember most of it, but one thing is for sure—college is the first big pillar of adult independence. Heading off to school is the initial opportunity for young adults to get out on their own and start making those big decisions that will lay the foundation for their future.
If students want to prepare for a long Healthy life, or that epic co-ed pool party, they’ll need to make exercise a habit and adopt a healthy diet. Surviving solely on late-night pizza runs and kegs of beer might be the easier option, but it certainly isn’t the healthiest. And skipping multiple trips to the gym due to intense hangovers won’t bring the greatest results, either. Luckily, the first major choice students make is selecting their college, and it’s clear some campuses offer a better shot at Fitness success than others.
Everything from amenities offered at the campus gym to the climate of the area can affect the fitness of a campus. Professional dietary advice, proximity to outdoor recreation and campus-wide programs all contribute to the well-being of the campus population, too.
For our ranking, we considered those factors and others: the number, success and involvement of sports programs (both varsity and intramural), the quality of athletic facilities, the healthfulness of campus dining options, quality of life ratings and, this year, we did something different. While other lists leave off the military schools, as ours did last year, this year we let the military institutions duke it out with the other four year universities up for consideration.
We also broadened the scope of colleges considered this year, looking at data on more than 100 of America’s top colleges and universities. Read on to see which colleges are the fittest in the country.
No. 10: Virginia Military Institute, Lexington City, Virginia
Nicknamed the “West Point of the South,” VMI is a senior military college and requires that all students enroll as military cadets, which means they must complete four years of ROTC courses and physical training. Though it is not a requirement that students join one of the armed forces, roughly half of the students join after graduation. Despite their rigid training schedule, many cadets still find time to compete at the varsity level in one of 18 Division 1 sports. –Diana Gerstacker
No. 9: Norwich University, northfield, Vermont
Norwich University is the oldest private military college in the United States. Cadets are faced with a number of mental and physical challenges. Upon acceptance, they receive a letter that communicates the physical fitness requirements, what their training should include and what they should expect when they arrive. Norwich offers a number of varsity sports and beautiful facilities, including a hockey arena, 25-yard pool, football and soccer fields, and a field house. Their athletics website offers a list of original strength and conditioning exercise videos made by cadets. –Catarina Cowden
No. 8: california Maritime Academy, Vallejo, California
In addition to maintaining the fit and active lifestyle associated with studying as a cadet, students continually note that athletics also tend to be a big part of campus life at California Maritime Academy. Despite a small roster of sports to choose from, the school’s athletic program continues to stand strong with a nationally ranked women’s rugby team, a championship sailing team and a Head of the American Regatta first-place men’s crew team. –Katie Rosenbrock
No. 7: University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
The University of Florida is best known for its impressive varsity win record—31 national team championships and 267 individual national championships in their history—but fitness isn’t only a priority for the varsity-level Gators. Students can join any of the 45 club teams, which include several martial arts clubs, skimboarding, ultimate Frisbee and even paintball. The intramural league offers many options, as well, and their fitness center has space and equipment for every kind of training program. And with the Florida sunshine, heading outside is always an option, too. –Diana Gerstacker
No. 6: University of Texas, Austin, Texas
Since the start of the Big 12 Conference, Texas has claimed more titles in men’s and women’s sports than any other school, and ranks second in the NCAA for all-time victories for football. There have been more than 80 Olympic medals won by current and former students. According to the school website, about 90 percent of all UT students participate in recreational sports programs and activities. The school works to promote a healthy lifestyle through its Fitness/Wellness Program, which offers group classes, clinics, personal training and more. –Catarina Cowden
No. 5: Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
Moving up four spots from its rank at No. 9 last year, Penn State scored high on our list thanks to its A+ athletic programs, which offer students seemingly endless opportunities to participate in a variety of different sports at all levels. According to College Prowler, Penn State ranks 17 in the site’s most active varsity sports category, and with top-of-the-line fitness facilities it’s easy, even for non-athletes, to make exercise an important part of campus life. “I have had very good experiences in the gyms and athletic facilities. They are clean, well manned, well stocked, and very accommodating,” one student wrote in an online review. –Katie Rosenbrock
No. 4: The Citadel, Charleston, South Carolina
Another of the six senior military colleges, The Citadel: The Military College of South Carolina requires all full-time undergraduate students to be cadets, participate in ROTC and live on campus for all four years. The physical training is demanding, but students still make time for intramural sports, and cadets are also able to be part of the varsity Division 1 sports teams. –Diana Gerstacker
No. 3: United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland
With one of the broadest sports programs in the nation, Navy Varsity Sports include everything from football and rowing to squash or rifle. Along with a number of varsity and club sport athletes, each student is expected to meet the physical rigors of military life. For admission to the Naval Academy, each candidate must successfully complete the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA). The CFA includes six test events including basketball throw, pull-ups, shuttle run, crunches, push-ups and one-mile run, which are administered consecutively in less than 40 minutes. –Catarina Cowden
No. 2: USMA West Point, West Point, New York
They say it outright on their admissions homepage: Not only is this highly selective military college looking for the most academically inclined students, but also the most physically fit. To be considered as an eligible candidate at West Point, applicants first must pass a medical exam and the Candidate Fitness Assessment comprised of six tasks, including a basketball throw, cadence pull-ups, a 40-yard shuttle run for time, abdominal crunches and push-ups (scored based on how many you can complete in two minutes), and a one-mile run for time.
Of course, prospects that successfully prove their physical fitness and eventually gain admissions are then required to maintain and improve upon their strength and agility as they work toward earning their degree and preparing for commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. Whether varsity, club or intramural, all USMA cadets are required to participate in a sport, and mandatory classes include Military Movement, Boxing, Combatives, Fitness Leadership, Survival Swimming and Lifetime Sport, just to name a few. –Katie Rosenbrock