6 of America’s Healthiest Cities

While you don’t need to live in a specific location to be optimally healthy, it is no secret that some places provide better conditions for health than others.

Some people are lucky enough to live in the country, with plenty of trees, wildlife, outdoor space to enjoy, and freshly-grown, organic food to eat every day, and this makes it easy to enjoy a naturally healthy lifestyle if one makes the right individual choices.

It is often difficult – if not impossible – for cities to compete health-wise with these locations – especially when it comes to wildlife and space to roam. However, some cities actively embrace and support healthy lifestyles when it comes to food, exercise, access to nature and more.

Every year, the American College of Sports Medicine compiles a report  entitled “Health and Community Fitness Status of the 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas.” The report uses the American Fitness Index (AFI) to rank the cities according to various criteria, including heart disease and diabetes rates, obesity percentages, number of smokers, and availability of fitness centers and farmers markets.

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota

This year, the AFI’s top ranking went to the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington area, for several reasons. Minneapolis had the highest number of farmers markets per capita compared to the other cities analyzed, giving residents easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables from a wide variety of vendors.

According to the AFI’s advisory board chair, Georgia State University professor Walter Thompson, there was also a drop in the number of smokers from previous years, and new rules passed governing smoking in public areas. There were also marked improvements in the health of Minneapolis residents compared to previous years.

Washington D.C.

The second place AFI ranking went to Washington D.C. One big reason for this is that more D.C. residents report eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day than residents of other cities. To support this healthy habit, the city offers a large variety of farmers markets to choose from.

Washington D.C.’s obesity rates are low, and many people walk, ride a bike or commute via public transportation to work, rather than driving. There are also an abundance of tennis courts, swimming pools and recreation centers, the cigarette smoking rates are low, and a plethora of national parks and monuments for scenic strolls around the city.

Portland, Oregon

Also ranking high on the AFI charts is Portland, Oregon, which has more parks per person than any other city on the list. One of these is Milo McIver State Park, which offers the opportunity for great outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, camping and horseback riding. This combination of green spaces and exercise opportunities makes Portland a metropolitan health superstar.

San Jose, California

An evaluation of 100 of America’s largest cities performed by Prevention.com rated the cities based on 48 criteria including access to green spaces, number of farmers markets, depression rates and percentages of chronic disease sufferers, along with crime rates, unemployment rates and how much fresh fruits and veggies citizens consume.

The top of their list of healthiest, happiest cities was San Jose, California. The main reason for the city’s win was the high availability of culturally diverse, organic produce.

As San Jose State University professor of nutrition Marjorie Freedman points out, the lengthy growing season makes local organic produce available most of the year. Additionally, San Jose is home to 18 community gardens spanning about 22 acres in total.

The San Jose city council also allows fresh fruit and vegetable vendors to set up stands near schools, community centers, libraries and religious establishments, so people don’t have to go very far to find their fresh garden wares.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sioux Falls scored high on Prevention.com’s rating system due to the fact that its residents reported the highest levels of health and well being for themselves. It is well known that physical and mental health go hand in hand, and in this city, more people reported that their health was ‘good or better’ than in any other city analyzed.

This city is also home to Falls Park, a 123 acre green space that boasts a 19-mile bike trail, in which Sioux Falls residents have a great place to enjoy the outdoors. Also, the crime and unemployment rates are low, and a high percentage of residents report having access to health insurance.

Aurora, Colorado

Aurora made Prevention.com’s list by ranking highest in overall health. Heart disease, cancer and diabetes rates combined were lower in Aurora than in other cities on the list. This city also scored high in residents having healthy body mass indexes (BMIs). The beautiful Colorado landscape and access to it was also noted.

Wherever you may happen to live, there is a lot you can do to make the most of the healthy options that your own area offers. Make note of the organic grocers and farmers markets in your area, as well as parks, bike trails and other outdoor spaces to go and enjoy nature. A quiet street with a nice view can make for a great morning walk, even if you don’t see the Rockies in the background.

healthyIf you find that your town or city is lacking in healthy options, such as available organic produce or places to walk safely, for example, take action and write to your local Chamber of Commerce about your concerns. If you get some family members and friends on board with your cause, it will be all the better.

If your city sees the demand for greater access to health-supporting establishments, significant changes could be made. It all starts with one person that speaks up.

-The Alternative Daily


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