Where you live can be an indicator of your health. Each year the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) releases their list of the healthiest cities in the United States. The ACSM looks at factors such as land available for public parks, availability of farmer’s markets, smoking bans in public areas and access to medical care. According to the ACSM, these are the five healthiest cities in America.
Located in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” Minneapolis has 22 lakes available for residents to enjoy. Residents of the area enjoy numerous hiking and biking trails, as well the absence of second hand smoke due to strict nonsmoking laws.
The ACSM also noted that residents have lower rates of diabetes, obesity and smokers and a higher percentage of residents with health insurance and those who practice healthy habits such as regular exercise and eating right, which is easier due to the number of farmers markets in the area.
While Congress may be notoriously inactive, the residents of the nation’s capital enjoy plenty of parks and recreation areas allowing them to capture the number two spot on ACSM’s list. Residents of the capital are more likely to walk or bike for transportation than drive. With its proximity to the mountains of Virginia and the Maryland coastline, residents can participate in activities not available to many other cities in the nation.
Washington has a higher than average number of swimming pools, tennis courts and recreation centers per person than most other U.S. cities. Like Minneapolis, Washington D.C. also has a large number of farmers markets which enable residents to consume the recommended five plus servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Residents also have access to excellent healthcare with institutions such as the National Institutes of Health and George Washington University in the area.
Boston has a higher than average number of commuters who choose to use human power for transportation by either walking or biking to their destination. Many use public transportation rather than add to the pollution problems that plague the East Coast. Boston also has a higher percentage of city land used for parks than other cities of comparable size.
Home to many of the country’s top medical schools, such as Harvard, residents have access to excellent healthcare. Boston residents have a higher number of primary care physicians per capita than most cities in the country.
Seattle, Washington/Portland, Oregon
Those living in these west coast cities enjoy numerous outdoor activities on the mountains, lakes and ocean. Mount Rainier National Park caters to residents who enjoy mountain biking and camping. Residents have been stereotyped as “outdoorsy,” which fits their lifestyle. The ACSM report states that residents of these areas do more moderate physical activity than residents of other areas of the country.
Residents of both areas have a lower number of residents living below the poverty level than other parts of the nation. Healthcare providers focus on preventative care rather than acute care which translates into low rates of cardiovascular disease and smoking.
The City by the Bay rounds out the top five. With one of the lowest smoking and obesity rates in the country, the city boasts of numerous parks, beaches and recreation areas. Residents can get an excellent aerobic workout by simply walking the city’s hilly streets.
The city’s proximity to California’s famous Wine Country and other regional parks allow residents to escape the stress of urban living. With a strong focus on primary care, residents have access to several well-known medical centers, including Stanford University.
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Carla Foster is a public health administrator who has also written about how to get an online masters in public health at MPH Online.