Effects of Living in a Healthy City

Washington, DC is a beautiful city and although it is often known for its wild traffic, it is also one of the healthiest cities in the United States according to the 2011 American Fitness Index report.

(source)

The top 10 healthiest cities, according to the 2011 AFI report:

  1. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.
  2. Washington, D.C.
  3. Boston, Mass.
  4. Portland, Ore.
  5. Denver, Colo.
  6. San Francisco, Calif.
  7. Hartford, Conn.
  8. Seattle, Wash.
  9. Virginia Beach, Va.
  10. Sacramento, Calif.  (source)

When I moved to Washington, DC in 2004 I quickly noticed how healthy the city was.  The city was full of beautiful trails, like the WO&D trail, 4 mile run, and Capital Crescent trail, which citizens took full advantage of.  Friends were invested in cycling, running, yoga, crossfit, frisbee golf, and NAKID kickball, all of which were new to me.

Running along the Potomac River

(source)

The fitness lifestyle of those living in DC was the polar opposite of what I had lived in San Antonio, Texas.  I can’t even tell you were a trail exists in San Antonio, aside from the sidewalk along the Riverwalk. This is not to say that San Antonio doesn’t have citizens looking to live a healthy lifestyle, it’s more that the city doesn’t scream fitness and healthy living.

When I lived in Texas, social gatherings were centered around food.  Mexican food, Texas BBQ, 24 hour fast food, and gallons of sweet tea.  I was by no means happy with my body weight when I lived in Texas, but the city I lived in did not support my desire to lose weight.  Washington, DC on the other hand motivates me to lose weight, to be healthy, and to try new fitness programs.  Instead of meeting up with friends at 10AM for breakfast tacos I am meeting up with friends at 7AM to go for a run and follow it up with an iced coffee.

A well known 24 hour fast food restaurant in San Antonio

(source)

You can also visually see the difference between Washington, DC’s citizens and those in San Antonio and even Las Vegas.  I was shocked when I arrived in Las Vegas a few weeks ago and to see vast amount of overweight people living in the city.  I had forgotten how fit DC was compared to other US cities.  It’s easy to compare myself to others in DC, as it is a very fit city, but I have to remember where I have come from and how much weight I have lost already.  I grew up in a city where obesity was acceptable and a part of the culture.

Now I will say that I often see the negative effects of living in a healthy city.  Yesterday morning in spin class there were 2 women who could not have weighed more than 100 pounds.  They were so incredibly skinny and struggled to keep up with the instructor.  There is also another woman I see at the gym every morning, who works out on the elliptical for hours at a time.  One morning I arrived and she had 92 minutes clocked on the machine and continued to work out for the 40 minutes I was on the machine.  It makes me sad to see these women who feel the need to lose that much weight or who work to maintain such a low weight.

I have learned that living in a city that embarrasses fitness is extremely important to me, but I also want to be as healthy as possible in my quest to be fit.  It is tough to live a lifestyle that isn’t openly accepted by those around you, as it takes a lot of willpower to go against the norm, so I commend those who live in cities like San Antonio and live a healthy lifestyle!

What city do you live in and how would you rate its fitness level?  Does the city you live in affect your fitness and lifestyle?

Comments

  1. says

    I work in NYC and went to college in Boston (both walking cities) I think it DEFINITELY affects your fitness when you can walk everywhere rather than drive. And honestly? I love not having a car to deal with! :)

  2. says

    Whew… I’m from Hartford, Connecticut and we’re on that list! It is so amazing to see the differences in different areas of the country. I’m so glad I’m from an area that appreciates fitness and healthy living.

    • says

      Although it’s cold here, we really don’t get much snow so people are still out there running/walking. I trained for a half marathon one winter and we actually had 2 HUGE snow storms that year, it was crazy. You’re right though, it’s hard to understand why the warmer cities aren’t healthier.

  3. says

    I live in the fittest city in the country, with only a 5% obesity rate (compared to Canada’s 60% or so obesity rate) and it’s easy to see why – we have miles upon miles of trails and healthy food is easy to get. I don’t know anyone who is obese and with a BMI of 23-24 I’m definitely on the heavy side of most people here.

      • says

        Hmm, I do think the fact that we have a gorgeous river and seaside trail system helps, and then we also have tons of gyms, little parks for walking, ice rinks, pools, etc. It’s a fitness-friendly city.
        We also have an extremely large Asian (mainly Chinese) population, and I have yet to see an elderly overweight Chinese person. They walk everywhere, do yoga, tai chi, etc, and that may have something to do with it. And also a non fast food diet, because while there are McDonalds and KFCs here, there is also a ton of healthy food, ie places that make veggie, rice and chicken stir fry which are a lot healthier than chicken fingers or Big Mac’s.
        For the younger ones, like me, I think it’s partially also the pressure – if no one around you is fat, do you want to be? I get the feeling that in places where 60% or more of the population is overweight or obese, it’s a lot more socially acceptable to be so, where as here…an obese person sticks out like a sore thumb.

        And that was one hell of a comment, haha.

  4. says

    I’m in Atlanta and I bet it’s similar to San Antonio. We live for Chick-fil-A and sweet tea. I live in the city, though, instead of the suburbs. I’d be interested to see a study on health statistics of people who live in cities verses suburbs. I would imagine city-dwellers are more health conscious.

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