Take a moment to consider why you live where you do. Did you move there for a job? To be close to friends or family? Maybe you moved to support your spouse or to pursue a particular passion. There are several reasons, both big and small, that determine where you lay down roots. One factor that’s gaining importance is a city’s health index. Is there quality, affordable health care? Plenty of farmers markets and parks? You may be swayed to move to a particular city because of its public transportation system or bike-to-work culture. Other people value access to nature or clean air and water.
Based on these and other factors, certain cities rise to the top. These six cities have some of the highest health rankings and here’s how they got there.
1. Minneapolis, Minnesota
Coming in at number one on Forbes’ latest list, residents of Minneapolis breathe clean air, keep their weight down, and focus on exercise. The city was among the first to ban smoking in public areas and add bike trails. In addition, people living in Minneapolis are less likely to have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and asthma. The city also boasts a high number of parks, recreation centers, and playing fields.
2. Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge got a great ranking from Livability for the network of sidewalks that make this city highly walkable. County Health Rankings put Middlesex County, which includes Cambridge, as the healthiest county in Massachusetts due to the low percentage of smokers and obesity. The Charles River draws in kayakers, while bikers can always be found cruising along the city’s bike paths. In addition to living a great quality of life, 96% of people living in Cambridge have health insurance and the city has an unusually high ratio of doctors to residents.
3. Washington, D.C.
This city is full of fitness opportunities and well-educated people. Greatist ranked it as the best city for 20-somethings, especially if you happen to be single. A large percentage of the city is dedicated to parks and open space, there are ample farmers markets, and a high number of residents who either take public transportation, bike, or walk to work. Washington also boasts an above average number of recreation centers, swimming pools, and tennis courts.
4. Portland, Oregon
It’s not surprising to see Portland on the list of the healthiest cities in the U.S. Residents are known for being outdoorsy and fitness-driven, with access to delicious local food, including plenty of veggie-friendly options. The city has a vast amount of parkland, easily accessible health care, and locals have jumped on the trend of walking or biking to work.
5. Denver, Colorado
Not only does Colorado get plenty of sunny days, but 61% of the mountain state’s residents ranked themselves as being in “excellent or very good” physical health. Cardiovascular disease rates are lower than average and locals are less likely to be obese, have diabetes, die of heart disease, or have asthma. The area also has plenty of recreational options including golf courses, dog parks, swimming pools, and tennis courts.
6. Madison, Wisconsin
This city makes the list for their low percentage of uninsured locals, high number of doctors, and vast number of recreational opportunities. Only 14% of the Madison population smokes and a high number of residents grow their own produce or take advantage of the locally grown fruits and vegetables from farmers markets. The city has a well-maintained network of sidewalks and bike paths that encourage people to walk or bike in the summer in lieu of driving.