America's Healthiest Cities: Mine Didn't Make the List, Did Yours?

Cynthia Dermody

woman mounting bike cab in washington DC
Flickr photo by ~MVI~
For the third year in a row, the Washington, DC, metro area scored top honors on the list of the Healthiest Cities in America 2010, as selected by the American Academy of Sports Medicine (AASM). I wonder what they're doing down there to be so darn healthy?

Washington, DC, itself actually stole the top spot in the fitness organization's annual ranking of 50 cities based on such things as rates of chronic disease, access to health care, prevention programs, and how much physical activity is encouraged with things like parks and walking trails.

I live in a small town, but my closest metro area, New York City, only fell in the middle of the pack, which shocks me because people are always working out around here. There are just as many gyms as Chinese restaurants, and yoga clothes are the everyday outfit of choice.

But the other two major US cities, Chicago and Los Angeles, fared about as well. The AASM says smaller cities tend to rank better because the larger ones have higher rates of unemployment, violent crime, disability, and poverty -- all things linked to an unhealthier lifestyle.

Wealthier areas, such as Washington, tend to be inhabited by educated people, and that is a characteristic linked to better health, partly because these folks are better able to afford health insurance.

I've always wanted to live in Boston, by far my favorite US city, and now I have more impetus because that Northeastern city came in second on the list. Hartford, Connecticut, my home state, also did well, I don't mind boasting.

Still, Western cities, including Seattle, Portland, Denver, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, and Salt Lake City, dominated the listing. You can guess the reasons: green, natural, open space, mountains.

Answering my question a bit, the specific reasons why Washington, DC, is a great place for health-minded folks:

  • A relatively low smoking rate;
  • More people eating the recommended daily serving of fruits and vegetables (fiber rules!);
  • Lower than average rates of obesity, asthma, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes (again, all linked to eating and living right);
  • Using public transportation over cars;
  • Greater amount of parkland, providing places to run, bike, play sports, or just take a walk.

My personal theory: The sport of protesting. Walking up and down the street carrying heavy billboards has got to be some workout.

Where does your city fall? Click for the list of the Healthiest Cities in America 2010.

Are you surrounded by healthy people or do you think others are a bad influence on your health habits?

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