Where is the Healthiest City in America?

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
11/21/2008 11:59 AM   :  57 comments

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According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Burlington, Vermont, is the healthiest city in America. Ninety-two percent of Burlington residents report that they are in good or great health. Outdoor activities are common, with lots of people biking and hiking, and neighborhood groups focused on improving parks, sidewalks, etc. With a culture focused on health, there are also more food options. Grass-fed beef is offered in finer restaurants, vegans have a variety of food choices, and the downtown supermarket is run by a co-op that sells healthy choices to low-income residents. Sounds like a nice place to live, huh?

On the other hand, the CDC reports that Huntington, West Virginia, is the unhealthiest city in America. Nearly half the adults in Huntington's five-county metropolitan area are obese. They have high rates of heart disease, diabetes and a significant proportion of residents do not exercise. Culture and the economy have a lot to do with these statistics. Fast-food restaurants are the norm, and with a struggling economy that faces low-paying jobs and unemployment, many people feel like it's too expensive to buy healthy foods and worry about daily activity.

It's amazing how the attitudes and focus on health differ as you go to different parts of the country. We are generally creatures of habit. If you don't live in a culture that focuses on making healthy food choices and exercising regularly, it's easy to see why it would be harder to start changing your lifestyle. Having support, from family, friends and the environment around you can make a huge difference.

Want to see where your state stacks up? Click here to find the obesity and overweight statistics for where you live.

What do you think? Personally, I'd love to live in a neighborhood where running and walking were the norm and not the exception. Do you live somewhere that's supportive of a healthy lifestyle? If not, how do you cope with that?


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Comments

  • 57
    Comments on links to poverty and obesity are pertinent, and not solely related to poverty per se, so much as locale as well; you don't find fresh food easily available in urban areas, and if one has to work two jobs, one is not going to have time to prepare food so whatever is cheapest and easiest to get is what will be the staple and in this country, not fish, not veggies and fruit, but PROCESSED foods are priced lowest.

    Factor in, after a close look, how dependent this country is on "production" of foods, (ie what percent of our gross national product is in this area?) and how great a portion of that is in the processed area, and it becomes clearer just how deep this issue runs...and why it is so hard to change it.

    How often do you see coupons for fresh vegetables and fruits and fish? I don't believe I ever have. How much support is given to farmers locally, as compared to big business farms that support giants in the industry of fertilizers and feeds? - 9/19/2009   8:12:31 AM
  • 56
    I read in a recent article that Washington, D.C., was (where I happen to live), though I think it may have been a study of large cities... Apparently Vermont is doing something right! - 6/3/2009   9:29:28 AM
  • 55
    I live right out side of Burlington VT. I love church street, no motor vehicles are allowed down it which gives you lots of walking to do while shopping. - 5/13/2009   7:49:06 AM
  • MISKA2
    54
    I live in colorado (#50) and like the fact that you can hit a trail head in town just about anywhere and be hiking any day. Winters are cold yes, but we just move the workouts indoors. I'm glad to see we are a healthy state. - 5/12/2009   1:05:27 PM
  • 53
    Figures, I live in Mississippi. Id like to know how all the counties compare within the state. Where I live there are bike paths around town as well as bike trails for exercise/sport, walking paths and lakes. We also have a farmers market (a few actually) in town and in neighboring small towns. Id like to know how my county compares to the others because to me it seems like people are pretty health oriented around here. - 4/16/2009   10:51:46 AM
  • 52
    I live in the #2 ranked unhealthiest place-Alabama. There really isn't much to do around here so I spend most of my time trying to figure out how to get out and active. One solution is that my DH and I have joined a gym. I am also deciding whether to join a bike group, but unfortunately there aren't any paths around here and you are basically placing your life in your hands in a car much less a bike. You have to go way into the country to be safe. The one thing I have noticed is that it is the "transplants" that bring activity to this community.

    But I think the worst of it is that there are entirely TOO many fast food joints around here. Everything seems to be deep fried, salad is a rare thing, or/and it is drowned in the fattest dressing that can be found. I made the mistake of bring a fruit and veggie tray to one social event and man the looks it got were interesting. You would have though the food was from another planet or something.

    This unhealthy lifestyle may stem from the unemployment situation and the state of the education system here. But that's just a guess. - 12/28/2008   1:38:00 PM
  • 51
    Yeah, Burlington. I lived in Vermont for many years before moving to Alaska. Didnt live in the city. Lived in the Bristol, Middlebury area. I always love to return, as Vermont is beautiful, as well as my family. - 11/30/2008   12:16:25 PM
  • 50
    hey I live there...well nearly there. I live in Montpelier, which probably would have ranked up there with Burlington if it weren't so small. I end up in Burlington at least once every two weeks and more in the summer because of the lake. There is a ton to do! Unfortunately my focus in the past was at the 130 bars in the downtown area! More recently some of my best friends made the move to the downtown area from here and thay LOVE it.

    So basically ...Sweet for us! - 11/24/2008   9:26:44 PM
  • 49
    A culture of health is all well and good, but research is showing more and more that such a culture is fostered by income level. Poverty is clearly linked to food insecurity and obesity rates in the United States and abroad. The monster in this closet explaining the different lifestyles between Burlington, VT and Huntington, WV is the economy. - 11/24/2008   5:24:17 PM
  • MESHKA1
    48
    good for them!!!! - 11/24/2008   9:56:05 AM
  • 47
    I live in southern Ohio and am shocked to see that we ranked higher than MI on this poll. I used to live in MI and still have relatives there. When I was younger (and actually a bit thinner) I would visit my cousins and we would go out to the bars around MSU. I would be the fattest person in the bars there (or just one of maybe three). Here, I would be in the middle of the pack. I think it might also depend on what city you live in, not just the state. My brother and sister-in-law just moved to western MI, and I was so pleased to see all the bike trails, parks with hiking trails, and the PEOPLE using bikes and walking. It really is a matter of using the facilities near you. We don't have bike trails in my community, but I live down the street from a nature center and there is a walking trail around the lake in my neighborhood. I have buddied up with people in my neighborhood and we challenge each other to exercise daily. - 11/24/2008   7:02:02 AM
  • 46
    Fourty years ago I bet people in HUNTINGTON, WEST VIRGIINIA grew most of their own fruits and vegetables and raised fresh meat, or at least a part of their food. We need to return to having home GARDENS, like I did growing up. My mother "canned" lots of food each summer and we went to the large Orchards and got apples, etc. Now, we deal with all types of additives in purchased food, and no idea where it is grown. - 11/24/2008   12:25:18 AM
  • 45
    Okay just to clear things up, #1 is the worst and #50 is the best (just compare Mississippi which is #1 and Colorado which is #50). UT (my state) is #44! We're sixth lowest...awesome! 22.4% adults are obese and 36.6% are overweight. - 11/23/2008   10:03:21 PM
  • 44
    WA ranks 28th, and we do have a lot of outdoor activities available, but with the colder weather and frequent rain its often hard to get out there and work out for me. I do now have indoor equipment for the nastier days, maybe if a bunch of us imrpove our wt and healty we can climb up some. - 11/23/2008   8:52:56 PM
  • 43
    I live in Georgia, a state that falls low on the health and fitness scale, but the island community where I live is designed for people who value fitness--indoor and outdoor pools, lots of tennis courts, 40 miles of biking/walking trails, six golf courses, and a great fitness center with lots of cardio and strength equipment, plus many group fitness class offerings. I suspect there are neighborhoods with a fitness orientation in every state, if you look for them. - 11/23/2008   4:00:15 PM
  • 42
    No surprise to those of us who grew up in VT and long to return there!!! - 11/23/2008   11:45:48 AM
  • 41
    My state MI is ranked #13 along with three other states. Our town isn't large, but we have a nice park with trails, we have a nice pool at the middle school, we have two gyms and our local hospital promotes a healthy lifestyle, and we have lots of sidewalks, the middle school is also open during the school year for walkers early in the morning and in the evening, so if you want exercise it's available. No matter where you live you can create a healthy enviroment for yourself. - 11/23/2008   11:32:29 AM
  • 40
    Yay Burlington!!!!! I'm Burlington born and raised! What a surprise when I opened this blog to see my hometown. I now live outside of Chicago but Burlington will always be home.

    Growing up there I took for granted the beautiful scenery, situated on the shores of Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains in the distance. In high school one of my teachers led our class on a 3 day hike along the Long Trail.

    As far as healthy, my Grandmother passed away last year at 101 yrs of age and my Great Aunt passed this year at 100!

    - 11/23/2008   11:12:26 AM
  • 39
    Lower numbers are actually worse. Mississippi, number one, has over 67% who are overweight or obese. - 11/23/2008   11:03:10 AM
  • JCHOATEX2
    38
    ReturnJourney, 42 out 50 is NOT good. The lower the number the better. - 11/23/2008   9:37:41 AM
  • SNOEBUD
    37
    WOW I must be living in a dream,, I have lived near burlington vermont all my life I do not like it, it, If you go near city hall park All I have ever seen were the homeless people and It has always scared me If you go outside of church street you worry about people jumping out of the dumpsters I actually felt safer in new york city - 11/23/2008   8:33:23 AM
  • 36
    I live in Central NH so Burlington isn't too far away. There are some towns in NH that have paths and such, but as someone mentioned they still need to be used by people. A mile or so from my house are climbing rocks and a couple of hiking trails. In the summer people are constantly visiting those spots. I try to walk, but there's nothing for sidewalks and people tend to drive way faster than they should so it makes it hard. I don't expect to see any sidewalks soon so I just keep my eyes and ears open. Most of my exercise the last 6 months was trying to keep my almost 4 acres of land mowed (riding mower died in Aug) and continuing to re-tame the gardens. So if anyone wants to do some gardening next spring. . . . :) As for fast food places there are a couple of pizza places close by, but it's at least a 10-15 minute drive for Dunkin Donuts, Subway, BK and McDonald's in the next town over - thank goodness for that! - 11/22/2008   11:28:45 PM
  • 35
    Just living in a city with public transportation & decent sidewalks is helpful. I love living in Chicago--I can do many of my errands on foot, & sometimes I run between the pharmacy, neighborhood market, post office, etc. We are also blessed to live near Lake Michigan, so we can use the bike paths along the lakefront for running or biking. - 11/22/2008   9:37:22 PM
  • 34
    I'd love to live in Burlington, VT!! - 11/22/2008   9:12:37 PM
  • 33
    North Dakota is 27% obese, I was actually expecting the number to be higher since we have so many -0 days where honestly who wants to go outside to exercise. Maybe that is why there is a fitness club every block or so. Or we keep the weight off by shivering! - 11/22/2008   8:54:35 PM
  • 32
    Am I correct in understanding that the HIGHER the ranking is, the healthier your State is? So California ranking #42 is actually right up there with the top 10 HEALTHIEST States. ELLE229, it's not so bad afterall. - 11/22/2008   8:00:58 PM
  • HAPPYANDLUCKY
    31
    I live outside Austin, Texas, and this area does focus on health and fitness. There are several adult and kids clubs for softball, soccer, etc. We have many parks and lots of sidewalks. In my neighborhood there is always people out walking and biking. As someone else said, having these things available is only half the battle. You have to get off the couch to use them. I have recently become active, but before would just watch all the people go by. :) - 11/22/2008   7:26:29 PM
  • 30
    WTG! to the two healthy cities!! - 11/22/2008   3:29:11 PM
  • 29
    I live in Georgia, and was very suprised to see it ranks #9. I wonder how they got the statistics, because where *I* live I see many morbidly obese people - and I live in a military community!
    I think that cities should promote healthier living by incorporating SIDEWALKS as well as CROSSWALKS. I can tell you, there are THREE crosswalks in Hinesville, Georgia, and the sidewalks are scarce. No playgrounds or places for people to be active (skating rinks etc)
    And, we've got a population estimated at 38,000! - 11/22/2008   2:09:03 PM
  • LUV_BEIN_MOM2
    28
    Did many people click to see where their state placed? I live near St. Louis, MO and I couldn't believe that Missouri placed 13th. The obesity rate was a lot higher than I had thought. It seems that the "healthy lifestyle" has been pushed a lot around here lately... now I understand why! Wow!! Very insightful and interesting... thank you! - 11/22/2008   1:30:08 PM
  • BEHMOM
    27
    I dislike seeing places stigmatized by low ratings in studies/surveys such as the one written about. I pity the people in Huntington, WV - their property values could fall if industry and businesses won't locate there due to studies like this. They have enough negative in their lives, I'm sure, without adding to the pile.
    I agree with publishing and praising the cities and towns that rank high, but perhaps only the best should be published, not the worst as well. - 11/22/2008   8:29:25 AM
  • 26
    I heard about this on the news because here in Vermont it was a big deal for us. I am not anywhere near Burlington. I am in the southeast part of the state. I am sure Burlington has lots of opportunites for people to be active- it's a college town after all- but I also think there are lots of places in the country that were probably not even looked at that are just as healthy places to live. As DonnaVT says, having the opportunities there is only half the battle. We still have to make use of what is there. On the other hand, even if our hometowns don't have the facilities that Burlington has, if we are determined to live a healthy lifestyle we can do so. Where I live and work, there are few established walking trails, but there are sidewalks in town (although not all are cleared in the winter) and lots of people do walk or bike around here, at least in the warmer months. If you can afford them, there are gyms as well, or you can have your own equipment at home like I do (it still doesn't help me if I don't use it!). - 11/22/2008   7:16:11 AM
  • 25
    I live and work in the areas surrounding Huntington and agree with this article. I just do not see the emphasis on a healthy lifestyle around here. WV has wonderful opportunities for physical activity, but they are not often used on a daily basis. I would like to see more people taking care of their bodies in this area! I would really like for more healthy choices in terms of restaurants. - 11/22/2008   7:03:23 AM
  • IMAGIN8
    24
    Burlington is a nice town, I know it well.

    I live in a super "health" friendly place, which is Munich Germany. Obesity is very rare here, except among tourist. It's very much an outdoor lifestyle, which hundreds and hundres of kilometers of dedicated bike paths, one of the largest urban parks in the world, superb public transit, farmers markets, health stores, the downtown banned to cars... it goes on. I definitely notice the difference in lifestyle when I visit my family in s/w Ontario, where car is king. Which is the healthiest city in Canada? I'm searching for a place to go back to someday, and I definitely don't want to compromise on my new-found healthy lifestyle! - 11/22/2008   7:00:48 AM
  • NHSTITCHER
    23
    I LOVE Burlington, been there many times. It's a great place to walk around, lots to do and many healthy places to eat. - 11/22/2008   4:38:11 AM
  • SHERI1969
    22
    Congrats to them for being healthy. Would you know what the healthiest city in Canada would be? - 11/21/2008   10:37:52 PM
  • 21
    I live in Ypsilanti, Michigan and we have a lot going for us here. There is a bicycle club that goes on regular rides while the weather is warm. A neighbor is hosting a weekly yoga group in her home. People are constantly walking back and forth to do shopping in the main downtown area and in the historic Depot Town area. We have a co-op and a whole grain bread company. We used to have a farmers market in a huge old freight house but when the people wanted to do some repairs and improvements on the building the inspectors closed it down instead. The politics are terrible here. Anyway, the farmers market now operates in the parking lot of a bank. We have a very active sustainable living movement here too. It has resulted in the establishment of quite a few vegetable gardens throughout the city and many opportunities for anyone who wants to participate and learn about organic gardening. We have numerous small parks in our little town plus two large parks along the Huron River where we have our Heritage Festival every August. We are the proud home of Eastern Michigan University. We are also right next door to Ann Arbor and her many cultural events including the Art Festivals held there every summer and the University of Michigan along with it's world class medical school and hospital and health system. - 11/21/2008   10:27:15 PM
  • 20
    I live in a nice town in North Dakota that has bike paths and walking trails all over the place both in the city limits and beyond. They are well maintained and well lit so you can even walk after dark if you want to. They don't get as much use during the winter as they are not shoveled. I don't know if they'd get much use even if they were shoveled when the temps dip into the negative numbers. - 11/21/2008   9:31:45 PM
  • ZZYYGGY
    19
    I lived in Burlington for the last 18 years and loved it. Everything was within easy walking distance, and the sidewalks were everywhere. My only complaint was the noise at night, and the constant setting off of fire crackers at all hours of the night. I also loved the co-op great choices. - 11/21/2008   9:14:46 PM
  • WANNADROPFIFTY
    18
    I live in Minnesota, in a town that has more parks and trails per capita than any other city in MN. There are walkers going up and down our streets all the time, even in the dead of winter (tho to be truthful, in winter I watch them through my window while I work out on an elliptical.) We also have a great park and rec dept that provides all sorts of fitness opportunities at a nominal cost, and scholarships for those who cannot afford even that. We have a great farmers market in our "central park" square every Saturday morning for 3 seasons. - 11/21/2008   8:33:41 PM
  • ANNIEMARIE6
    17
    I live in New Hampshire and we are 35 healthes place to live. This does surprise me because I do see a lot of people who are over weight. - 11/21/2008   7:44:13 PM
  • 16
    I live in Vt about 45 minutes from Burlington. Wow! I feel proud about this! - 11/21/2008   7:21:45 PM
  • 15
    I live right outside Austin, TX which is a FABULOUS city for getting out and about. The Lady Bird Johnson Lake (formerly Town Lake) Hike and Bike trail is amazing. My neighborhood in Round Rock has a great trail that I run on everyday, and we see plenty of others out there - strollers, dogs, kids, individuals. We definitely need more bike lanes, but everyone could use some improvement. - 11/21/2008   6:01:55 PM
  • RACHELRB
    14
    I lived outside of Huntington a few years ago and I would agree it is THE WORST. All restaurants are fast food, I got run off the road by dogs and cars when I tried to ride my bike. Being healthy is not an issue to most people. There is a lot of concern around the pollution and lack of jobs but not much us being done to solve those. Now in Utah, a clean and outdoor friendly place I am much more comfortable. But it is sad that we have such extremes in our country. - 11/21/2008   4:20:34 PM
  • 13
    Right now, we live in Mississippi... which is literally the heaviest state in the Union.

    Having lived in a lot of other states, including Colorado, the LEAST heavy state in the Union, there are some VERY clear differences.

    One of the most obvious to me is the total lack of running/biking/walking paths. It's HARD to find anywhere safe to engage in outdoor activity. Many roads don't have sidewalks, and drivers often aren't very used to watching for people out on the side of the road. In our town, there are VERY few crosswalks anywhere. Which makes crossing major streets a near impossibility. I can't even walk from one major store downtown to another one across the street to try to sneak in a few minutes of extra exercise. Compare this to most cities and towns in Colorado where there are bike paths EVERYWHERE, sidewalks, pedestrian bridges to get you over busy streets... you could literally bike/run/walk to most ANY destination in town, provided you had enough time. It's a bit of a difference.

    Food wise, it's challenging to find healthy restaurants AND there are a lot of healthy staples that would be norms in a town this size in most states that you just can't get here at the grocery store.

    Fortunately, we do see the local community working on increasing healthy opportunities. They recently opened a very nice walking/biking trail down by the river. The downtown shopping area is being slowly turned into more of a walking district. And the Farmer's market is growing. So there ARE some small positive changes going on.

    But, all the same, I will admit that it takes a lot more creativity to live a healthy lifestyle in Mississippi than in places where healthy lifestyles are more the norm. - 11/21/2008   2:58:23 PM
  • 12
    Our neighborhood is fairly supportive of a healthy lifestyle although not all members of the neighborhood actively participate in a healthy lifestyle. I would like to see and initiative in our town to challenge the people to live healthly lives. I don't know how to start one, however. - 11/21/2008   2:25:31 PM
  • 11
    This article is absolutely true. I lived there for a summer a few years ago, and no joke lost about 15lbs in three months. There are so many great free activities there that you always find yourself on the go. Plus there is just something about the people that live up there, they are all so positive and healthy living orientated. - 11/21/2008   1:58:55 PM
  • 10
    I can believe this totally. I was never overweight when I grew up and lived there. I so miss it. There was always hiking, biking, fishing. Even a simple walk was a lovely thing.
    Where I live now is an over 25% obesity rate area. There is nothing pretty or lovely about corn and pig flat land. The out doors does not invite you to play when the heat and humidity attempt to choke you and you can see nothing for miles.
    Even the long somewhat cold winters were more enjoyable there. There was ice skating, skiing, snow shoeing and do not forget the past time of snow mobiles. Winters here where the wind just goes for miles and miles the air is bone chilling damp.

    Boy can you tell I miss Home.

    - 11/21/2008   1:55:13 PM
  • 9
    I live in Vermont, but nowhere near Burlington. However, I always see people running and biking (weather permitting of course), and there are many farmer's markets and whole foods stores. I love living here! - 11/21/2008   1:53:08 PM
  • 8
    I live in California and here are our stats:

    Percentage of obese adults (BMI 30 or above): 23.3
    Percentage of obese adults (BMI 25.0 - 29.9): 35.7
    Ranking 42 (not a good thing!!!)

    Californians live for the "quick" fix, i.e. fast food, fast cars, lol and fad diets; obviously we need to rethink our way of living! - 11/21/2008   1:36:41 PM

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