The Most #Swole, #Ripped, and #Shredded States in America

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Instagram and other social media platforms may be a gigantic time sink, but if there is one big positive, it’s that social scientists are able to gather an enormous amount of data from individuals voluntarily serving it up. Case in point, fitness — there are plenty of people who love to update their networks whenever they’re hitting the gym, or going for a run, and, of course, when they want to show off their results.

Those results are also slapped with the accompanying hashtag — ‘#ripped’, or ‘#shredded,’ for example — and the use of such tags has made it even easier to gather and sort through fitness trends by demographic. It’s basically an explosion of data, and it’s been able to give us a whole new level of insight that would have taken years of gathering to access. has capitalized on all of that data, and was able to identify some trends and put together some cool maps and charts as a result. The goal, to find the fittest states in America, was reached by analyzing “more than 800,000 geotagged Instagram posts between January and April 2015 featuring popular bodybuilding hashtags: #gains, #shredded, #ripped, #swole, and #buff.”

By doing so,’s team was able to pinpoint which states in particular were more fitness-focused than the rest. As for the hashtags that they tracked and compared, here’s a breakdown:


Out of the more than 800,000 Instagram posts the study took into account that used these identifiers, the research team found that California was the overall king in ‘social fitness,’ as you’ll see next.


As is plainly visible in the map above, California stood out in a remarkable way from the rest of the country when certain hashtags were isolated, including #gains, #shredded, #ripped, #swole, and #buff. Actually, interestingly enough, Nevada was the number one state for ‘#gains’ usage, while California followed closely behind. But overall, California moved the needle far further than any others state, with more than 20% of the total posts.

“California (104,000) had more than twice the number of fitness shout-outs than Florida (48,000), New York (41,000), and Texas (40,000). Wyoming and Montana again brought up the rear,” the study says.

Now, if we look at this a little more closely, it becomes clear why this might have been the case. The map above shows that California, Texas, New York, and Florida stand out among the rest of the states, and it’s pretty easy to discern why: They are the country’s highest population centers. This could explain, demographically, why they would have the most posts associated with them.

Also, it would make sense that the combination of warmer climates, sandy beaches, a huge population, and a focus on appearance — all very ‘Californian’ traits — would propel California to the top of the list.


As we mentioned, Nevada ruled the roost when it came to ‘#gains’ usage. That’s important because that individual search term was found to be the most popular among those being tracked. “Based on the posts we reviewed, #gains was the most commonly used hashtag, comprising 40% of the 801,377 posts we examined,” the study says. “#shredded and #ripped, more traditional bodybuilder terms that probably cannibalize some volume from each other, came in at 28% and 19% respectively.”

Though Nevada’s overuse of ‘#gains’ is a bit anomalous, there are some rather simple explanations, including population count, that explain most of the study’s findings. For example, states like Wyoming and Montana, which ranked last in many counts, may have fewer fitness centers, less Instagram users, or just less Internet connectivity in general, though researchers were unable to pinpoint the exact reason.

As for a few more juicy nuggets from the research, abs were the most oft-mentioned body part, and some other factors, like nutrition, played a big role in the usage of certain social tags, like ‘#shredded’. Also, some terms, like ‘#fitchicks’ and ‘#girlswholift’, helped researchers find out which terms were more female-focused — like ‘#gains’.

Check out the entire study at for even more insight, including to see the subtle differences between certain hashtags, and how people use them.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger

More from Health & Fitness Cheat Sheet: