Although America is credited as the obese nation, not every community in the country deserves that reputation. It’s true we could probably all cut back on some fast food and make time for a little more exercise during the week. But in some cases, people across the country are already doing those things.
To get a better picture of where those pockets of healthy living are located, WalletHub took a look at several factors and ranked the 150 most populated cities in the United States. Each city was scored according to four main factors: the quality and accessibility of health care, the quality of food people eat, levels of fitness in the population, and the amount of green space each city has.
“There are definitely ‘healthy’ and ‘toxic’ cities, and the differences are clear,” Lawrence O. Gostin, director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on Public Health Law & Human Rights at Georgetown University, told WalletHub. “Healthy cities have clean air and water; recreation facilities, parks, and green spaces; walking and bike paths; and accessible markets to affordably buy fresh fruits and vegetables.”
WalletHub’s study incorporated these items and more. The rankings included factors that indicate ongoing fitness, such as the percentage of active adults in a city. But they also included items that can demonstrate potential fitness, such as ample green spaces for people to walk, run, or otherwise exercise if they choose. A combination of both types of fitness landed these 10 cities at the top of the list. No. 2 has plenty of healthy restaurants to help make staying fit easier.
10. Santa Clarita, California
This southern California city near Los Angeles is the 10th most healthy city in the United States, according to WalletHub’s rankings. The city ranked at No. 10 for its health care options, and it ranked first in the nation for the number of walking trails per capita. And it ranked first in the nation for the “green space” category. That takes into account the walking trails, as well as acreage of parks, access to physical activity areas, and the ability to walk and ride bike within the city.
“Really interesting studies have been conducted which show that living in close proximity to green space correlates to better health outcomes,” Tomar Pierson-Brown, director of the Health Law Clinic in the School of Law at University of Pittsburgh, told WalletHub.
9. Washington, D.C.
Our nation’s capital is also one of the healthiest cities in the country, according to WalletHub’s analysis. D.C. ranked ninth in the larger categories of food and green space, and it was tied at first in the nation for the largest amount of running trails per capita.
“Most of the top-ranked cities include walking and biking paths, sidewalks and playgrounds, public parks and recreation centers, and an overall philosophy of health and exercise,” noted Lynn A. Blewett, Mayo professor of Health Policy and Management in the School of Public Health at University of Minnesota. “Overall, people are more likely to walk and bike in communities with patterns of development that prioritize walking and biking (and pedestrian safety) over car travel.”
8. Honolulu, Hawaii
Honolulu scored eighth in the nation in terms of access to health care, while also earning the No. 8 healthiest city ranking in the country. The city came in at No. 5 for its food ranking. This takes into account how many adults are eating at least one serving of fruits and vegetables per day, the nutritionists per capita, farmers markets, and reasonable access to healthy foods.
7. Huntington Beach, California
Just south of Los Angeles is the city of Huntington Beach, another extremely healthy city. The city ranks at the No. 10 spot for healthy food and is tied for one of the lowest premature death rates in the country. If you can afford to retire in Orange County, apparently you want to do it there. But the only drawback is this city also has one of the highest average costs for joining a fitness club — so you might want to plan your workouts in a park or on the beach.
6. Irvine, California
We stay in Orange County for the next healthy city. Apparently, those stereotypes about fit and tan people in and around L.A. hold true, for the most part. Like Huntington Beach, Irvine also has one of the lowest premature death rates in the country. And it scored as the No. 5 best place for health care. That category takes into account the number of physicians per capita, access to affordable medical and dental care, overall mental health, and the number of people with adequate health insurance, among other factors.
5. Portland, Oregon
We take a break from the golden state of California for most of the top five healthiest cities in the U.S. At the No. 5 spot is Portland. Known as a hipster haven, the people there apparently take their health seriously. The city ranked as the 10th best in the nation for its green space. And it ranked at No. 2 for its food, likely because it scored the highest in the country for access to healthy restaurants. (WalletHub classifies these as vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free establishments.) Portland is also third in the nation in terms of the percentage of active adults, perhaps because of the city’s known friendliness toward pedestrians and people who ride their bicycles.
4. Seattle, Washington
Seattle is known for its cloudy weather, but apparently sunless days don’t stop the population from getting exercise and eating well. The city ranks fourth overall for its food offerings, sixth in the nation for its green space, and seventh for its fitness level. Seattle has the fifth-highest number of healthy restaurants per capita and is first in the nation in terms of physically active adults.
3. Scottsdale, Arizona
Away from the mist and clouds of Seattle is Scottsdale, located in arid and sunny Arizona. Although the heat might get to some people, apparently it doesn’t hinder many people in this city from staying active. The city ranks first in the nation in the fitness category, which among other things includes the share of residents who engage in physical activity, the number of fitness clubs per capita, the average cost of club memberships, and recreational leagues per capita. And according to WalletHub, Scottsdale has the second-highest percentage of active adults in the country.
2. Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City has the legacy of the Olympics within its city limits, and its emphasis on the great outdoors lends itself to physical fitness. The city ranks third in the nation in terms of food offerings and fitness levels. At least part of the food ranking comes from having the third-highest number of healthy restaurants per capita in the country.
1. San Francisco, California
San Francisco might be known for tech geeks who sit behind computers all day, but apparently they take a break to eat well and go for a run every now and then. San Francisco is the healthiest city in the nation, according to WalletHub’s analysis. It ranked third in the nation for its food and green space. The city has the lowest percentage of adults who eat less than one serving of fruits or vegetables per day. And it ranked third in the country for its running trails per capita.
One downside, however, is it ranks as one of the most expensive cities to buy a fitness club membership. Skip the treadmills, and sprint up the city’s notoriously steep hills instead.
Each of the cities ranked on a total scale of 100 points. Even though San Francisco is the healthiest, its overall score of 68.06 shows every city in the U.S. likely has some room for improvement in terms of health care, food offerings, fitness amenities, and green spaces.
Emma Reynolds also contributed to this post.