In some places, city living can promote activities that help keep you fit and well. In other cities, circumstances seem to conspire against living a healthy life.
It comes down to how well a city accommodates and cultivates healthy living, as well as whether you take advantage of the benefits a city has to offer.
These conclusions are drawn from the latest survey of 48 medium and large metropolitan areas in the United States by the Gallup organization and Healthways, a wellness company.
Surveyors interviewed almost 150,000 people and compared a variety of factors, including whether respondents smoked, ate fresh produce the previous day and had someone encouraging them to be healthy. They ranked the cities by a combined “well-being score.”
The top 5 cities for well-being were:
- Boston–Cambridge–Newton, MA–NH
- San Francisco–Oakland–Hayward, CA
- Chicago–Naperville–Elgin, IL–IN
- New York–Newark–Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
- Washington–Arlington–Alexandria, DC–VA–MD
The bottom 5 were:
- Tulsa, OK
- Durham–Chapel Hill, NC
- Indianapolis–Carmel–Anderson, IN
- Oklahoma City, OK
- Fort Wayne, IN
People who live in the healthiest places, the surveyors said, have “significantly lower rates of smoking, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression; and significantly higher rates of exercise, healthy eating, fresh produce consumption.”
Internal and external factors contribute to well-being
The survey sought to highlight some of the best practices for cities and the people who live in them. For example, they highlighted improvements in Eugene, Ore., which has reduced its obesity rate over the last eight years and has 28 miles of off-street paths, four bicycle-pedestrian bridges over the Willamette River and a bicycle-commuting rate of 9 percent – well ahead of the national average, which is less than 1 percent.
Respondents to the survey were polled on questions that attempted to gauge whether they:
- Consider themselves to be thriving
- Ate a healthy diet the previous day
- Have someone who encourages them to be healthy
- Have high blood pressure
- Are depressed
- Have food insecurity
Among the suggestions for civic leaders, surveyors recommended cities:
- Create a parking master plan that makes all forms of transportation competitive
- Adopt a master plan for parks and open spaces
- Set a complete streets policy that makes it convenient for people to travel by auto, bicycle, transit or on foot
- Create a plan for safe routes to school
Learn more about the well-being survey
You can download the report at the Healthways site, along with the article “Can Your City Make You Healthy?”
You might wish to consult the Healthy Living page maintained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the “Healthy Weight” link, for example, you’ll find tips for healthy eating, physical activity, preventing weight gain and other elements of being healthy.
Talk to your health care provider about taking steps to ensure you live a healthy, active life. You can find a Providence provider here.