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Slim in the City

Make Your Urban Lifestyle a Healthy One
  -- By Stepfanie Romine, Staff Writer
The hottest restaurants, the best museums, the latest trends: City living puts the good life at your fingertips. But with those perks often come long commutes, even longer work hours, cramped living quarters, and hectic schedules, all of which can make it even more difficult to fit in healthy habits.

Research shows that city dwellers walk at least 15 minutes more than suburbanites, but that doesn't necessarily mean that urbanites are healthier. In its annual survey of the fittest and fattest cities in America, Men's Health magazine this year ranked the three largest cities—New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago—in the list of 25 fattest cities. And a 2006 survey found those who lived in Chicago had body mass indexes (BMIs) similar to those of people who lived in the Windy City's farthest suburbs, while the residents of nearby suburbs were slimmer.

Considering that about half of the world lives in a city these days, you can't use urban surroundings as an excuse for being unhealthy. Play up the pros of city life, watch out for the unhealthy dangers, and an urban environment can be just the ticket to a happier, healthier, lighter you.

Con: Trying to exercise in a small apartment is difficult.
Make it work: You can make your limited space work for you. Pro: Cities are home to great food and restaurants.
Use it to Your Advantage: "Great" need not be synonymous with heavy, greasy, or fattening. Plenty of chefs experiment with light, flavorful, and healthful food. Con: Street vendors peddle unhealthy eats.
Make it work: In many cities, hot dogs, oversized pretzels and pizza lurk around every corner. Pro: City dwellers tend to walk 15-30 minutes more than non city dwellers do each day.
Use it to Your Advantage: Make the most of those minutes, especially if it's the only exercise you get each day. Con: The high cost of living in the city means you can't afford a gym membership.
Make it work: Almost everything costs more in the city: rent, food, entertainment, and parking. When you're barely getting by, a gym membership doesn't seem worth the price. Pro: There is plenty of green space.
Use it to Your Advantage: Even though cities can be concrete jungles, they often have some of the best parks and gardens available. Consider all that green space one giant—and free—gym. Con: Supermarkets are few and far between.
Make it work: You don't need to have a giant big box grocery store in your neighborhood to eat healthfully. While you might have to be creative, you can find healthy foods close to home. Pro: Cities tend to be ahead of the curve when it comes to trends.
Use it to Your Advantage: Whatever the fitness trend du jour is—be it hot yoga, Power Plate, or hip hop aerobics—you'll be more likely to find a gym offering it in the city. Con: The city never sleeps—and neither do you.
Make it work: In the city, noise from traffic, sirens, and late-night parties can disrupt your sleep, which can wreak havoc on your mind and body. Living in the city puts you in the center of activity, and with these tips you can make sure that you're getting enough exercise, eating right, and still enjoying the perks that make city living worth the drawbacks. Urban life takes a bit of adjustment, but with so much fun, cool stuff nearby, you'll soon be living the (healthy) life!