America’s Top 20 Healthiest Cities

What is the American Fitness Index? The ACSM American Fitness Index was created, in partnership with the Anthem Foundation, to help improve the health of the… Rina - November 5, 2020

America’s Top 20 Healthiest Cities. When you think of the healthiest cities in America. How fit is the city you travel to or live in? The American Fitness Index conducts an annual report showing the best large cities for fit and active lifestyles. A wellness technology platform released its annual Wellness Index ranking the healthiest cities to live in 2020. Does where you live affect your waistline? Research on health and happiness has shown us that location matter, and the city you live in can have a big effect on your personal health and wellbeing.

The company surveyed 20,000 Americans living in the 50 most populous US cities on their fitness and wellness habits and also looked at data from the US Census and business listing services. It also looked at the cities’ health statistics, such as the overall number of visits to the doctor per resident, the number of smokers, and how likely residents are to drink enough water, among other factors. If you want to live in a city where people work out regularly, feel good about their health, and get enough sleep.

Image via Shuttestock

What Makes a City Healthy?

The healthiest cities in the US based on factors including residents’ overall health, behaviors, attitudes towards wellness, and the success of local wellness businesses like gyms and spas. The researchers surveyed 20,000 adults in the 50 most populous US cities on their fitness and wellness habits, and analyzed health data and other data from sources including the US Census and business listing services. A healthy city is one that is continually creating and improving those physical and social environments and expanding those community resources.

Image via Shutterstock

Which enable people to mutually support each other in performing all the functions of life and developing to their maximum potential. Healthy cities are places that deliver for people and the planet. They engage the whole of society, encouraging the participation of all communities in the pursuit of peace and prosperity. Healthy cities lead by example in order to achieve change for the better, tackling inequalities and promoting good governance and leadership for health and well-being. Innovation, knowledge sharing and health diplomacy are valued and nurtured in healthy cities.

ACSM American Fitness Index. Image via Freepik

What is the American Fitness Index?

The ACSM American Fitness Index was created, in partnership with the Anthem Foundation, to help improve the health of the nation and promote active lifestyles by supporting local policies and programs to develop a sustainable, healthy community culture. The Fitness Index features an annual ranking that assigns a score to the 100 most populous cities in the United States. The Fitness Index rankings reflect a composite of preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions.

Image via Shutterstock

As well as community resources and policies that support physical activity. The intent of the rankings are to provide a valid and reliable measure of community fitness at the city level. In addition to the rankings, the Fitness Index provides valuable resources that can help communities focus their policy and programming efforts as well as assist them in developing collaborative activities and partnerships with other organizations that contribute to health promotion.

Baltimore is a major city in Maryland with a long history as an important seaport. Birthplace of the national anthem. Shutterstock.

Number 20: Baltimore, Maryland

If you look beyond the political turmoil and crime that flares up at times – the history, culture and cuisine of Baltimore makes it a great city to call home. Whether you’re a sports fan, a seafood lover, or a history buff, Charm City has plenty to offer. The Baltimore metropolitan area’s population of nearly 2.8 million has grown in recent years, but it still has a small-town feel.

Image via Architectural Digest

Baltimore’s elegant architecture, friendly people and lively pockets of nightlife and music make Charm City a pleasant and fun place to call home. Baltimore ranks well for its high number of park playgrounds, recreation centers and swimming pools. Another draw is Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, which sees 13 million visitors a year. Among its attractions is Baltimore Beach, a stretch of sand that’s home to seven volleyball courts.

Tampa is a city on Tampa Bay, along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Shutterstock

Number 19: Tampa, Florida

As Florida’s third largest city, Tampa is home to nearly 380,000 residents and makes up a decent chunk of the metropolitan known as the Tampa Bay Area. Other adjoining cities, towns and suburbs nestled along Tampa Bay expand this greater metro to over 4 million inhabitants. So many options can make finding a place to live a little daunting. This mid-sized city is a good place to live if you are looking for a Florida destination with character and a respectable mix of blue- and white-collar careers.
Tampa, Florida. Image via Freepik
Florida is packed with vacation-worthy cities that can make deciding where to live (and possibly retire) a difficult choice. However, there are so many reasons to consider moving to Tampa, starting with — the weather. A large number of public parks, swimming pools and dog parks combined with beautiful weather and an emphasis on healthy eating make Tampa a city that places a premium on healthy living. A climate where you have to perpetually be bathing suit ready probably doesn’t hurt.

An Ariel view of Central Park in Manhattan. Shutterstock

Number 18: New York, NY

Today, New York is the largest metropolitan area in the U.S., home to almost 21 million people who speak over 200 languages. The city itself, Big Apple, has always been a spectacle, what with its historic structures, famous skyscrapers and beautiful people from the world over. Beyond the city’s magnificence and its standing as one of the most recognisable in the world, New York has been known for one thing in particular when it comes to life in the big city: the high cost of living.

New York, NY. Image via Shutterstock

Housing, food, transportation, clothing, taxes (income, property, sales), entertainment… They are all higher than most other cities in the country. Understandably, New York doesn’t rank too favourably in the best places to live lists, including the 2017 U.S. News & World Report which placed it at position 80 out of 100 best cities to live in America. Let that not put you off though. There is a reason New Yorkers, surprisingly, have a long life expectancy. A plenitude of parks, public transportation and walking and biking mean New Yorkers keep things moving to stay fit.

Known for diverse musical heritage, its Southern hospitality; its sports teams and ‘the world’s busiest passenger airport. Shutterstock

Number 17: Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta is luring millennials with its lower cost of living and good employment opportunities. Another potential draw for millennials is the fact that half of the population is single. Strong neighborhood associations and easy commutes make it a good place for families as well. The metro area also has one of the highest LGBT populations per capita among major metropolitan areas and has long been considered the epicenter of the gay South for its support of the LGBT community.

Atlanta, Georgia. Image via Shutterstock

A majority of the people in Atlanta affiliate with a religion. And while many different faiths are represented across the metro area, Protestant Christianity makes up the highest percentage. It’s still the Bible Belt, after all. What makes Atlanta a healthy city? For one, the number of its residents living within a 10-minute walk to a park. Combine lots of walking and great weather and you have a recipe for making activity a part of your daily routine.

Los Angeles is a sprawling Southern California city and the center of the nation’s film and television industry. Shutterstock

Number 16: Los Angeles, California

Good weather, relaxed lifestyle, bright sun and beaches make people kinder. Despite its huge size and hectic life, living in Los Angeles you will feel the amazing atmosphere of the southern city. Didn’t get an invite to the Oscars? You can still hang out in the City of Angels and take a tour to see the sites including Disneyland, Universal Studios, the Hollywood Bowl and don’t forget to take a stroll along the Santa Monica Pier.

Santa Monica Pier. Image via ExperienceFirst

Gorgeous weather, the presence of the fitness-obsessed entertainment industry, and a large number of recreation centers per capita, as well as a low number of smokers, the obese and those with asthma, all contribute to LA’s No. 16 status. This southern California city made the list for its health care options, and it ranked first in the nation for the number of walking trails per capita.

Among the largest cities in the U.S. Famed for its bold architecture, it has a skyline punctuated by skyscrapers. Shutterstock

Number 15: Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is a great place to live for those who want a bustling urban hub without the cost or stress of a bigger city. Cleaner than New York and nicer than Los Angeles, Chicago is the largest city in the Midwest. As such, it still has a touch of humbleness in its roots. There is ample public transportation, good jobs and plenty of diversity. This makes moving to Chicago an attractive option for those looking to relocate. Despite not having access to a coast, the lakefront is a major part of city life. It offers a plethora of attractions and a nice reprieve from the summer heat.

Millennium Park. Image via Shutterstock

The Windy City is the gold standard for health and well-being, according to an assessment of city policies aimed at improving residents’ health. Chicago is a foodie city with a high concentration of farmers’s markets where both chefs and ordinary folk can make shopping for top-quality, healthy, farm-to-table food part of their day. Chicago came in 15th place overall and 4th place for cities with the most running trails per capita.

The number of technology and scholarly institutions around Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham make the area known as the Research Triangle. Shutterstock

Number 14: Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh is a city in North Carolina with a population of 457,159. Raleigh is in Wake County and is one of the best places to live in North Carolina. Living in Raleigh offers residents an urban suburban mix feel and most residents own their homes. In Raleigh there are a lot of restaurants and parks. Between its family-friendly atmosphere, great quality of life and welcoming Southern community, it’s no wonder people are moving to Raleigh, NC.

Raleigh, North Carolina. Image via Shutterstock

The region has even been named the best place to live in North Carolina and the best big city in the Southeast. Raleigh gets high marks for setting aside a high percentage of city land as parkland; 17% of municipal land is devoted to parks compared with the national average of 10.6%. Cycling, boating, camping and hiking are all easy day excursions, with Umstead State Park and the American Tobacco Trail nearby. Plus, get in outdoor art at the North Carolina Museum of Art, where you’ll find this monumental sculpture.

Hartford is the capital of Connecticut. It’s home to the Mark Twain House & Museum. Shutterstock

Number 13: Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford attracts people from all walks of life, and its population is fairly diverse. The surrounding suburbs are great alternatives to urban living for families who can afford them. Don’t let the historic architecture fool you: Even as one of the oldest metro areas in America, Hartford, Connecticut, has a lot to offer, both old and new. Located in the Connecticut River Valley, Hartford has many cultural gems hidden amid rolling hills and wooded neighborhoods.

Hartford, Connecticut. Image via Shutterstock

The capital city has more than 50 public parks and squares that cover more than 27,000 acres. More than a million people annually picnic, jog, attend rallies and socialize at Hartford’s restored Bushnell Park (pictured). As the oldest publicly funded park in the US, Hartford’s historic “Central Park” has added new landscaping, benches and a play area in recent years.

The Live Music Capital of the World. Shutterstock

Number 12: Austin, Texas

Austin has been voted the best place to live in America for three consecutive years by the U.S. News & World Report for the quality of life, job market, and a city’s desirability. Austin is known for its eclectic live-music scene centered around country, blues and rock. Its many parks and lakes are popular for hiking, biking, swimming and boating.

Lady Bird Lake, Austin Texas. Image via Shutterstock

The Texas capital can also get very hot, which may explain why it has so many public swimming areas, at an affordable fee, too. The average price for a day pass to one of the city’s public pools is only $3 for adults and $1 for children. Barton Springs Pool is one place to cool down; find the recreational pool in Austin’s Zilker Park.

Sacramento is a major center for the California healthcare industry, as the seat of Sutter Health, the world-renowned UC Davis Medical Center, and the UC Davis School of Medicine. Shutterstock

Number 11: Sacramento, California

Sacramento, capital of the U.S. state of California, lies at the confluence of the Sacramento River and American River. The district of Old Sacramento harkens back to the city’s Gold Rush era, with wooden sidewalks and wagon rides. One of several museums in Old Sacramento, the California State Railroad Museum depicts the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, one of the country’s earliest technological feats. The state’s inland capital city, Sacramento, is often overshadowed by its flashy coastal cousins.

Image via Shutterstock

But Sacramento’s tree-lined streets, burgeoning food, wine and beer scene, and affordable housing make it one of the best places to live in California, especially for those seeking a cost-effective place to raise a family. Sacramento is known for its evolving contemporary culture, dubbed the most “hipster city” in California. In 2002, the Harvard University Civil Rights Project conducted for Time magazine named Sacramento “America’s Most Diverse City”. In the Sacramento area, go kayaking on Lake Natoma, within the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area. Another big attraction is the city’s park system; in 2013, Sacramento tied with San Francisco and Boston for having the third-best park system among the 50 most populous US cities.

Located on on the Pacific coast of California known for its beaches, parks and warm climate. Shutterstock

Number 10: San Diego, California

Consider moving to San Diego? Not only is ‘America’s Finest City’ one of the best places to live on the West Coast and one of the best places for veterans to retire, but it also has great employment opportunities, a plethora of beautiful beaches, top-notch cuisine, affordable neighborhoods. But it could also be good for your health!

Image via Shutterstock

Along with its great weather, “America’s Finest City” is known for its physically fit residents, who go surfing in San Diego at places like South Carlsbad State Beach. For quiet time, locals and visitors alike can enjoy the meditation gardens on the grounds of San Diego’s Self-Realization Fellowship Temple, founded by an Indian spiritual leader in the 1930s.

Known as The Beehive State, Utah residents are revered for their hard work and community. Shutterstock

Number 9: Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City is in Salt Lake County and is one of the best places to live in Utah. Living in Salt Lake City offers residents an urban, suburban mix feel and most residents rent their homes. Many families and young professionals live in Salt Lake City, and residents tend to have moderate political views.

Downtown Salt Lake City skyline Utah in USA. Image via Shutterstock

It’s no surprise to us that Salt Lake City made this list. Utah’s capital city is a short drive from renowned ski resorts like Alta, as well as scenic recreation areas like Wasatch-Cache National Forest. based on a number of health-related factors, like the cost of a doctor visit, how many fruits and veggies people eat and the location of fitness centers.

Portland sits on the Columbia and Willamette rivers, in the shadow of snow-capped Mount Hood. Shutterstock

Number 8: Portland, Oregon

Portland feels manageable because it’s not such a big city. Portland’s charm isn’t found in towering skyscrapers, but rather the unique neighborhoods throughout the city. The manageable size of Portland makes it very easy to use alternative modes of transportation to get around. With a strong public transit system, a focus on fresh, local food and plenty of green space. Portland could be considered a national model for healthy living. Park-filled cities. There are an average of 13.8 parks per 10,000 residents across the top 10, double the statewide average of 6.6 parks, including 300 miles of greenways and bike boulevards.

Image via Shutterstock

Portland is a great city for anyone seeking outdoor urban adventure. Enjoy a bike ride along the Willamette River, or start exploring the great outdoors on foot with a trip into Forest Park, one of the largest protected wilderness areas inside any US city. Portland, Oregon’s largest city, sits on the Columbia and Willamette rivers, in the shadow of snow-capped Mount Hood. It’s known for its parks, bridges and bicycle paths, as well as for its eco-friendliness and its microbreweries and coffeehouses. Iconic Washington Park encompasses sites from the formal Japanese Garden to Oregon Zoo and its railway. The city hosts thriving art, theater, and music scenes.

Colorado is an American metropolis dating to the Old West era. Shutterstock

Number 7: Denver, Colorado

U.S. News & World Report recently named Denver the best place to live in America, beating out hyped-up cities like Austin and Portland. And it delivers. From a strong job market and low unemployment rate to a thriving restaurant scene, Denver has become a cultural hub. Year after year, the city of Denver earns its spot on the list of America’s top 10 fittest cities. That’s an incredible accomplishment given the nation’s rise in obesity.

Image via Shutterstock

From North Capitol Hill to The Henry in Downtown Denver, residents are a shining example of quality health. Outdoors lovers especially love the Mile High City. The big outdoor attraction is the Front Range Trail. Just 30 minutes outside the city, the 876-mile trail stretches from Wyoming into New Mexico, with trails ideal for hiking, running, rock climbing and mountain biking. And just 20 miles west of Denver, check out Genesee Park; you may spot American bison.

Boston is best known for its famous baked beans, Fenway Park, and The Boston Marathon. Shutterstock

Number 6: Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is in Suffolk County and is one of the best places to live in Massachusetts. Living in Boston offers residents an urban feel and most residents rent their homes. In Boston there are a lot of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks. Many young professionals live in Boston, and residents tend to be liberal.

Image via Shutterstock

Boston gets its fair share of love when it comes to health rankings. They won a gold medal in last month’s CityHealth ratings, and last fall we were named the country’s best city for active living. Beantown is a walker’s city. Lace up for a walk along Boston Harbor. Plus, enjoy a 2.5-mile walk along the Freedom Trail, which leads to 16 historic sites in downtown. The city is also the birthplace of a free fitness movement that started in 2011 (and has since spread to other major cities), with a membership of professional athletes and fitness rookies.

Surrounded by rolling hills in Silicon Valley, a major technology hub in California’s Bay Area. Shutterstock

Number 5: San Jose, California

It is a great place to live. San Jose is very diverse and there are a lot of opportunities for education, careers, and social life. It is expensive. However, that is because it is located in the tech-hub of silicon valley. San Jose is in the Northern part of California.

Image via Shutterstock

Often called the “Capital of Silicon Valley,” San Jose, as California’s third-largest city, also has some great outdoor attractions. Alum Rock Park, nestled in the eastern foothills of Silicon Valley, is a great place for picnics, hiking, biking and exploring. The park also boasts great scenic trails and 1800s-era natural spring baths.

known as the Emerald City because of its famous, lush evergreen forests. Shutterstock

Number 4: Seattle, Washington

Seattle, a city on Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest, is surrounded by water, mountains and evergreen forests, and contains thousands of acres of parkland. Washington State’s largest city, it’s home to a large tech industry, with Microsoft and Amazon headquartered in its metropolitan area. The futuristic Space Needle, a 1962 World’s Fair legacy, is its most iconic landmark. Living in Seattle is great, just ask anyone who lives there. Sure, they’ll complain about the rain, traffic and graffiti, but they have no plans to leave anytime soon. In fact, more people are moving to Seattle each year; the U.S. Census places Seattle fourth for growth among the 50 biggest U.S. cities.

Mountain Seattle, Washington. Image via Shutterstock

The fervently active lifestyles of local residents helped Seattle get ranked as the No. 2 most-healthy city in the U.S., according to WalletHub. Seattle ranked behind only San Francisco in terms of healthy behavior, including many green spaces. Volleyball, anyone? In Seattle locals head to Alki Beach Park, a nearly 136-acre park with a half-mile of beachfront. Another favorite for the physically fit is Discovery Park, a 534-acre park on the shores of Puget Sound that includes more than 11 miles of walking and biking trails. The park, the largest in Seattle, is also a great place to view wildlife.

San Francisco is known for its cool summers, fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of architecture, and landmarks. Shutterstock

Number 3: San Francisco, California

The San Francisco Bay Area is known for its fresh, healthy food, with a focus on seasonal ingredients and sustainable agriculture. Dig into organic delights at local restaurants like The Plant, where organic salads and meats grace the menu. And whip up your own menu with items from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, which sells more than 1,500 varieties of local produce. San Francisco is a great area for meeting new people, as a large portion of San Francisco’s population is single. The environment isn’t nearly as conducive to families, however.

Famous Lombard Street in San Francisco. Image via Shutterstock

The high cost of living has made it difficult for families with children to settle down in San Francisco. The city of San Francisco is the healthiest city in the United States, according to WalletHub’s Healthiest & Unhealthiest Cities in America. Ranked in four categories: health care, food, fitness and green space, three Bay Area cities joined San Francisco in the top 25. This shows us that San Francisco is one of the happiest and healthiest places in the U.S.

The U.S. capital, is a compact city on the Potomac River, bordering the states of Maryland and Virginia. Shutterstock

Number 2: Washington, DC

Washington, DC, promotes a healthy lifestyle through its Capital Bikeshare program, with 2,500 bicycles located throughout the city. Another big draw is Eastern Market, a city fixture for more than 135 years, selling local farm-fresh produce. And if you want to get in cardio, a jog around the National Mall is a great option; you’ll cover 5 miles.

US Capitol building on national mall. Image via Shutterstock

The US capital is the most “weight-healthy” city in the country based on BMI, according to the report. Eighty-one percent of Washingtonians exercise at least once a week. The capital is also the country’s top spender on beauty and grooming.

A major metropolitan area built around the Mississippi, Minnesota and St. Croix rivers in east central Minnesota. Shutterstock

Number 1: Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

Once again, the Minneapolis-St. Paul area ranks as the No. 1 healthiest city. Minneapolis was one of the first cities nationwide to add bike trails; it also sets aside a high percentage of the city as parkland. Another healthy draw is the Minneapolis Farmers Market. Established in 1937, the market supports some 230 local vendors. Minneapolis is in Hennepin County and is one of the best places to live in Minnesota. In Minneapolis there are a lot of restaurants, coffee shops, and parks.
Minneapolis downtown skyline in Minnesota. Image via Shutterstock
Many families and young professionals live in Minneapolis, and residents tend to be liberal. The public schools in Minneapolis are above average. Minnesota is the best state for healthcare in the U.S. and its hospitals routinely score among the best and safest in the nation. The twin cities were ranked in the top 10 best places for a healthy lifestyle, according to Ritual’s analysis (2019). St-Paul is in Ramsey County and is one of the best places to live in Minnesota. Living in St. Paul offers residents an urban suburban mix feel and most residents rent their homes.

Combine these active lifestyles with short commutes. Image via Shutterstock

Advice From The Healthiest City

St. Paul and Minneapolis make up the Twin Cities. The pair is a pretty fascinating phenomenon. They sit just under 9 miles apart… they’re so close they could almost be one city. Yet they couldn’t be more different from one another. The Twin Cities are one of the most concentrated areas in the world for Fortune 500 companies. Massive behemoths like Target, United Health Group, 3M, Best Buy, General Mills and Land O’ Lakes have chosen the Twin Cities to house their corporate headquarters. And this is only a small portion of the 17 massive corporations that reside in the area.

Image via Shutterstock

Biking, sailing, golfing, skiing and even relaxing, residents have a huge range of outdoor activities available from season to season. Combine these active lifestyles with short commutes, low unemployment, and better access to healthcare, and it all adds up to Forbes’ declaration that Greater MSP is the least stressful of any major metropolitan city. With the nation’s largest park system, a chain of five city lakes and nearly a dozen downtown farmer’s markets, the area has lead the country in health and fitness for two years in a row. The region also has over 1,100 miles of dedicated off- and on-street bikeways — that’s enough to pedal from Minneapolis Saint Paul to New York City!

Some urban designers are setting their sites on one key part of the mental health epidemic: loneliness. Shutterstock

In Summary

A healthy city is one that is continually creating and improving those physical and social environments and expanding those community resources which enable people to mutually support each other in performing all the functions of life and developing to their maximum potential. Greenery isn’t a luxury or a privilege: it should form a vital part of any urban ecosystem. Green space can reduce aggressive behaviours in struggling neighbourhoods; clean polluted air; and even significantly improve a person’s sense of wellbeing, even when seen from the home.

Image via Shutterstock

According to some studies, urban dwellers are at significantly increased risk of depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. The pace of modern life likely contributes to stress levels and unease, but the spaces in which we live are also a vital part of the puzzle. Some urban designers are setting their sites on one key part of the mental health epidemic: loneliness. The health benefits of exercise are too long to list: from reducing obesity to combatting depression, physical activity is crucial to human happiness and wellbeing — but many large cities aren’t conducive to an active life. Air pollution levels are dangerously high across the world and limited space in which to exercise doesn’t help.

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources: