Quite a few magical factors need to come together in order to create what's considered a "healthy city" in our cheese fry-infected day and age. Sometimes it's about the general level of citizen activity (how often we walk, run, and bike), while other factors include accessibility of healthful food options and fresh produce (like farmers markets, co-ops, and healthy dining options). With so much to take into consideration, it can be difficult to figure out which American cities are considered "healthiest" — though some are obviously stronger contenders than others. While each major news source seems to cite different cities as being the "healthiest," there are a few everyone seems to agree belong in the top five: cities like Denver, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and San Diego show up most frequently on these lists, for instance.
And if you think about it, this makes sense. Some of the best music, art, politics, and performances our nation has can be found in these cities. Seattle, after all, is the birth place of Fifty Shades of Grey; without it, we would never have been hashtag-blessed with the literary masterpiece. Upon closer look, though, these constants have a few other important similarities that go above and beyond just mental and cultural wellness. So what lands these cities consistently among the nation's healthiest? Let's talk about the five things these thriving locales have in common.
All of these cities fall within Walkscore.com's top 20 most walkable cities in the U.S., meaning that all factors contributing to a safe, efficient, economic commute are in place.
Here's a breakdown:
- San Francisco - #2
- Seattle - #8
- Portland - #14
- Denver - #17
- San Diego - #19
Of the more than 20,000 regions classified as cities in the U.S., the fact that these five all lie in the top 20 most walkable indicates a legitimate connection between "walkability" and health.
2. A Body Of Water
There's something about being around a body of water that invigorates us. Multiple studies have shown that the combination of sun, exercise, and stress relief associated with any stream, lake, or ocean is good for the body and soul. In other words, we are still cavemen on the inside and need to be around nature sometimes. Outside settings are vital to both our mental and physical wellbeings.
3. Metropolitan Structure
One would think that the not-so-natural daily vista of cement slabs and concrete lots would be counter to an active, healthy lifestyle, but it seems that these five cities share this characteristic. The clincher may be that despite their big city prowess, they all provide natural settings like parks and lakes, offsetting the high rises enough to balance the populace.
4. Liberal Mentality
Big cities tend to attract liberals. Increasingly, scientists are finding that it may be a natural propensity for diversity and change that explains what drives certain individuals to associate as "liberal." As larger cities provide more diversity inherently, this might also explain the trend demonstrated in the below graphic by Pew Research. There have been no studies run to determine whether one form of thinking is tangibly "healthier" than the other, but these five health-centric cities all have liberal majorities. Take that as you will.
5. An Active Community
If the only means of working out in your city was a lone jog, how often would you get out for a run? It seems logical that the more diverse, challenging, and exciting opportunities we have to work out (Zumba, Tai Chi, pole dancing), the more apt we are to partake.
So if you're a fitness nut, you might want to consider a move. That concrete outside your apartment window isn't going anywhere.
Images: Getty; Pew Research; Giphy