Choosing to be healthy seems like a no-brainer. But it’s far easier said than done. Dieting or exercising all by yourself can feel miserable or restricting, and it often ends without a ton of success. It’s proven that we’re far less likely to lace up those running shoes or grab the boxing gloves if we’re tackling this fight against obesity and heart disease alone. According a study published in the Journal of Social Sciences, people “gravitate towards the exercise behaviors of those around them.” This means you’ve got a much higher chance of shattering those fitness goals and maintaining a healthy existence if you’re surrounded by like-minded individuals.
So what places promote wellness most, and how can you join them? We decided to comprise a list of the seven healthiest cities in the US and Canada to make it easier. Note that cities were judged based on nutrition and eating habits, access to exercise and recreational space, and overall health statistics.
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
Minneapolis-St. Paul is, year after year, considered one of the healthiest cities in the country. But to land a spot at the top of the list year-after-year comes through a structural dedication to promoting fitness. With over 230 miles of bikeways in the city, the Twin Cities is ranked as the number two cycling commuting city by the U.S. Census Bureau. Many of these folks bike their way after work to Lyndale Farmers’ Market, a year-round source of fresh, local produce supported by over 200 vendors. And if that wasn’t enough to convince you of how fit our friends in Minnesota are, the city has even installed a skywalk system that connects buildings for over 50 downtown blocks, making it easier to walk to work even in subzero temperatures.
The Pacific Northwest is a traditionally healthy area of the country, boasting legendary hiking trails, literally thousands of lakes and rivers fit for outdoor activities, and greenways in every major city. Seattle chooses to promote wellness in other ways by supporting its massive downtown Pike Place Market, a local source for fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables. On top of that, the city recently passed a Sugar Tax which they hope will help to reduce childhood obesity rates and improve the overall health of kids and adults.
The largest city in Western Canada is also the country’s healthiest, stemming mostly from its citizens’ devotion to curating healthy habits. Vancouver is proud to report lowest smoking rates amongst large cities as well as the smallest overweight population in the country. Not only do the residents of Vancouver shun the bad, they also promote the good: the city is incredibly friendly to gluten-free, organic, and vegan diets, and make access to these sort of ingredients incredibly affordable.
Physically, the fit folks of Calgary are a bunch of studs and studettes. The population of the city is expanding rapidly, catering especially to young professionals seeking a high standard of living. While Alberta itself is the least healthy province in Canada, the young adults of Calgary are choosing to prioritize health, as shown by the exceptionally low rates of obesity and high blood pressure. This is likely due Calgary being one of the cleanest cities in the world, offering tons of outdoor parks and very strict anti-smoking laws.
The next time you complain that you can’t work out because the weather is awful outside, look to the people of Ottawa. Canada’s capital might have awesome summers with tons of bike trails, outdoor recreational facilities, and a river perfect for kayaking, but the winters there are long and brutal. But it’s citizens find a way to stay healthy by consuming a diet rich with fruits and vegetables and staying active in the winter months. Keep it up!
In 2016, Saskatoon scored an “A” in overall health as part of a report evaluating health performance in major Canadian cities. This is no shock to anyone who’s been there and taken a walk or canoed down the South Saskatchewan River. Locals find awesome and creative ways to stay active during the winter months as well, including cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and hockey. All of this activity has contributed to reducing health risks like stroke and heart disease in the majority of the population.
According to Forbes, Washington, D.C. is the second healthiest city in America because of its higher than average number of recreational facilities. Not to beat a dead horse, but it goes to show that routine exercise is one of the biggest factors in leading a healthy life. Atop that, D.C. residents eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day–thanks to the multitude of farmers markets in and around the city.
By Jayson Goetz
Jayson is a recent graduate from Arizona State University who lives in Phoenix. Being a lover of nutrition and travel, he’s always ready to try new restaurants and visit new places. He started writing in hope of sharing his experiences with fellow foodies and travel bugs.