Every day, it seems, the media brings us dire new tidings of the obesity crisis in America. But forget all the gloom and doom: It’s about time we celebrated some of the American cities that are doing their part to eradicate obesity and make healthy amenities more accessible and affordable for all citizens. Below, we list the 10 healthiest cities in America, based on aggregated data from the American College of Sports Medicine and its American Fitness Index and other research studies. Find out why these fit cities make great locales for health-minded individuals!
1. Washington, D.C.
Numbeo.com shows D.C. averages a high cost of living. Fruits cost around $5 per kg while the average monthly membership fee at fitness clubs runs about $75. Tennis Courts costs $17.50 an hour on weekends and a 0.33 liter bottle of water goes for $1.67.
If eating right and exercise are so expensive, how does D.C. rank first in healthiest cities?
D.C. offers many community gardens for low-income families which helps to offset the high cost of healthy foods. And like in most big cities, D.C. residents walk frequently to avoid traffic. Daily amenities like grocery stores and restaurants are down the road from houses and apartments which also makes hoofing it a simple, healthy choice. As home to the federal Department of Health, D.C. also focuses on educating the public about getting adequate exercise and eating right.
According to ProtectLocalControl.org, all workplaces, restaurants, and bars in Washington, D.C. are entirely smoke-free. A 2014 Gallup poll indicates that public smoking bans lead to lower numbers of smokers in a general area, as seen in D.C. The same 2014 Gallup poll found that Minnesota, Washington state, and Massachusetts have some of the lowest smoking rates in the country, with each having between 15-17% of residents that smoke.
2. Minneapolis, Minnesota
It might seem logical to assume that Minnesotans have a little extra, well, padding to stay warm during the frigid winter months, but in reality, the City of Lakes ranks second in national health.
According to the city’s Park and Recreations Board, Minneapolis was also named the Most Bikeable City in the U.S. in 2012 by Walk Score. That same year, the city was ranked among the 25 Best Cities for Walking by Prevention Magazine. Minneapolis also hosts several school-based clinics which are free to students; is home to Project Heartbeat, which aims to make life-saving heart defibrillators more accessible in public spaces; and has a volunteer-led Clean City program.
Minneapolis’ cost of living averages less than D.C. according to Numbeo, but is still higher than other parts of the country. Fruit ranges from $4.30-4.80 per kg and gym memberships are $30 less per month than those in D.C.
3. Portland, Oregon
Portland Parks & Recreation holds over 11,546 acres with 209 developed parks on 3,445 acres and has 7,887 acres of natural area. With so much natural beauty surrounding the city, it’s easy to see how Portland residents stay fit. Average temperatures range from 45 degrees F in winter to 80 degrees in summer. This mild weather allows Portlanders to enjoy the city’s many parks and public spaces year-round.
4. Denver, Colorado
According to Denver Parks and Recreation, “The City and County of Denver provides over 200 city parks, over 100 miles of trails, and 11 dog parks. This equals over 5000 acres of urban parkland.”
Colorado is one of the biggest ski destinations in the world, and the Denver area offers several ski resorts of its own including Echo Mountain, Loveland, and Winter Park. Winter sports let Denver residents keep fit no matter the weather, which tends to stay fairly mild in the city proper.
5. San Francisco, California
San Francisco has the highest cost of living (of those cities on the list) in regards to food and indoor fitness, but San Fran also invests in public programs that provide low-cost access to parks, rec centers, and healthcare.
Vegetables and fruits range from around $2-4.50 and gym access can cost an average of $70.50 per month, but there are many affordable and free options for exercise through the public park system.
According to their website, San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department has 4,113 acres of recreational and open space, 220 neighborhood parks, 179 playgrounds and play areas, 82 recreation centers, dozens of soccer fields, and several basketball and tennis courts.
San Francisco also seeks to make quality healthcare available to citizens of all socio-economic status through its Healthy San Francisco program operated by the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
Lastly, those famous San Francisco hills guarantee a workout for all who walk them which helps keep locals in tip-top shape. There are all sorts of places perfect for exploring the city on foot whatever your fitness level.
6. San Jose, California
Food and fitness costs in San Jose are similar to other big cites with fruits and vegetables ranging from $1.74-5.25. Average weather there ranges from 60-80 degrees year round. With perfect temperatures nearly every day of the week, residents of San Jose are free to walk, run, bike, or play outside whenever they choose. Families can also stay fit and active together through programs sponsored by San Jose’s Parks, Recreations, and Neighborhood Services like the Family Camp at Yosemite event.
7. Seattle, Washington
Seattle is home to over 400 parks and open areas and more than 6,200 acres of park land. Despite frequent rain, plenty of Seattle residents get out and walk. The city even offers a Recreational Walking Map to help citizens determine the best routes according to their fitness levels and interests.
8. San Diego, California
According to San Diego’s government, “San Diego’s Park and Recreation Department is responsible for overseeing nearly 40,000 acres of developed and undeveloped open space, more than 340 parks including Balboa Park, Mission Trails Regional Park, and Mission Bay Park; 26 miles of shoreline from Sunset Cliffs to La Jolla; 13 pools; 3 public golf complexes; 55 recreation centers and more.”
Attractions like the famous San Diego Zoo and multiple museums give people plenty of places to walk. Easy access to mountains, oceans and other terrains also give locals a variety of ways to keep active including water sports, mountain biking, or hiking.
9. Boston, Massachusetts
Boston is home to the nation’s oldest health department, the Boston Public Health Commission. This independent public agency strives to offer a range of important, quality health services to all residents of Boston.
There are over 2,000 acres of park land across the city and a number of historic sites for people to engage in.
10. Sacramento, California
Warmer winters and lots of sunshine make Sacramento a great place to live for those who love to get outside. There are more than 20 city parks as well as skate parks, dog parks, and community gardens. Sacramento also ranks among the top cities with the best ParkScores from The Trust for Public Land.
Healthcare, Food, Exercise and Accessibility
What determines the health of an area largely boils down to the healthcare, food, and exercise residents receive. Accessibility to doctors, medical care, healthy foods and exercise play key roles in the how healthy residents are. Among the 10 cities on this list, areas that invest more in public parks, community gardens, and access to healthcare tend to see better results that those that lack affordable ways to stay well.
Before you pack your bags and rush off to one of these 10 cities, try applying some of their core health elements to your own life. Do like your mother told you and eat your fruits and veggies, get in your daily exercise, and make friends (because fitness is always more fun in a group!). Check out your own local parks and recreation centers, and if you see room for improvement in your community, try reaching out to your local government or starting small wellness groups in your neighborhood and area. And with some teamwork and determination, your city, too, can be a haven of health!