Fitness Articles

Slim in the City

Make Your Urban Lifestyle a Healthy One

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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.
  • Search out new "healthy" restaurants in your area. You'll find that these days, many restaurants think of light cooking as the rule, not the exception.
  • Cities tend to be melting pots, with plenty of cuisines that are good for you and delicious, including sushi (watch the sodium-laden soy sauce and ask for brown rice), Vietnamese (try a big bowl of pho, a noodle soup with plenty of vegetables), or Korean (but go easy on the greasy barbecued meats). Try out new ethnic cuisines (use our Dining Out Guide for tips) instead of going to your favorite burger joint or pizzeria.
Con: Street vendors peddle unhealthy eats.
Make it work: In many cities, hot dogs, oversized pretzels and pizza lurk around every corner.
  • Go for the lesser evil. If you must eat "street meat," choose a corn dog, which contains a modest 250 calories and 15 grams of fat (without any trimmings). The protein and fat will help keep you feeling full longer than a quick-digesting soft pretzel, for example.
  • Follow the Boy Scouts' advice: Be prepared. To ward off the temptation, carry granola bars, apples, bananas or other "portable" food. If you didn't plan ahead, stop at a corner store for fruit, a small bag of hard pretzels or a package of nuts. These also make good additions to otherwise unhealthy meals (like corn dogs), adding a little more nutrition and fiber to round out your meal.
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.
  • Wear comfy shoes and stash the stilettos or wingtips during your commute so you can maintain a brisk, heart-pumping pace while decreasing your risk of injury or other discomforts.
  • Get off the train, bus or subway a few blocks early to add a few more blocks on to your total. Forgo taxis, and you'll save money in addition to doing your heart a favor. Even if you work in a high rise, you can still take some stairs. Get off the elevator a few floors early—better yet, take the stairs in the lobby to avoid the crowds at the elevator and hop on it a few floors up. Continued ›
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About The Author

Stepfanie Romine Stepfanie Romine
A former newspaper reporter, Stepfanie now writes about nutrition, health, fitness and cooking. She is a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher who enjoys running, international travel and all kinds of vegetables. See all of Stepfanie's articles.

Member Comments

  • I moved from the heart of Seattle to a suburb of Sacramento. In Seattle I biked and walked everywhere. When I saw the walkability score of 39, I thought ridiculous, you can walk anywhere. Oh I was so very wrong. I finally gave up doing much. When you land in an area of strip malls and 6 lane split boulevards, you have no hope of not using a car. We moved, thankfully, into Sacramento. Although it is nothing like Seattle I feel as though I can function much like I did in Seattle. I bike into downtown and I walk a ton. I am finding my groove again, but certainly in my experience, the burbs and not at all health friendly and the city was much better. I also love not being surrounded by chain restaurants and box stores. I love a good coffee shop and they did not have any in the burbs, Starbucks does not count, btw. - 12/2/2014 10:57:31 PM
  • I live on a the country of course. Downside is we lives several miles to the nearest city. Takes almost 30 minutes to get to work. I use videos, youtube, or the walk track my husband made for me out back. - 10/7/2013 10:31:49 PM
  • I walk all the time. When I go on vacation I do alot of walking instead of driving. I love to walk. That's just me. - 9/13/2013 9:34:04 PM
  • Working in Portland Oregon, I'm able to find "fast" food at the outdoor food carts that is quite often healthier than what I'd fix at home. We have 200 plus miles of trails, I wonder if I'll ever make it to them all! - 2/14/2013 6:20:28 PM
  • I live in a NYC suburb and work in Manhattan and I feel like Manhattanites are slimmer than my suburban neighbors. I think the reason why NYC was ranked as a "fat" city is because it probably counted all 5 boroughs of NYC. The truth of the matter is that a lot of people who live in the outer boroughs (meaning not Manhattan) fall into the lower socioeconomic classes. Those who are poor tend to be more overweight. The people who live in Manhattan tend to fall into higher socioeconomic classes (hello? they can afford to live in Manhattan) and these are the people I see who tend to be slimmer. So the question isn't necessarily of city vs suburban living (although I think that in general suburban living does mean people sit on their behinds more and are therefore less active) but rather poor vs wealthy. - 6/8/2012 11:55:16 AM
  • I think it's MUCH easier to get in a reasonable amount of walking if one lives in a city - at least, if you're in an area that allows you to walk to most/many of your destinations. It can be harder in smaller/mid-size cities where zoning restrictions may isolate housing from commercial spaces. I strongly believe that we need to re-think our views on zoning as well as prioritizing sidewalks in future roadway improvements. - 7/9/2011 4:30:25 PM
  • I don't see it - I was just saying last weekend that everywhere I went in NYC there were healthy, slim people! I walked 15 miles in 2 days (tracked, not an estimate) and we didn't even do that much! Perhaps the unhealthy factors come more from things like pollution and stress? - 5/19/2011 10:16:35 AM
  • I'm moving to the city (small city) in the next few months, from a relatively rural area of retired people. I can't wait for the opportunities that await.

    Thanks for a great article.
    - 1/18/2011 11:49:06 PM
  • I lived in wonderful CHICAGO where I did a lot of walking, but then when I lived in Los Angeles, I had to DRIVE everywhere. - 6/11/2008 1:58:26 AM
  • I'm definitely healthier now that I've moved to a big city. I walk everywhere, or take public transportation, and only drive the car when absolutely necessary. Where I used to live, I lived only a mile from work, but couldn't walk because there weren't sidewalks and I would have been risking my life!

    And, all this walking has an added bonus - my carbon footprint is smaller!

    Plus, I don't really have the money to eat out a lot, so most of my meals are cooked from fresh ingredients.

    - 6/10/2008 5:29:45 PM
  • Something that I LOVE about living in our city neighborhood: Most of my errand destinations are within running/walking distance! Most Saturday mornings I run with a sling bag to the post office, hardware store, grocery (we have two excellent smaller/cheaper markets within a few blocks), pharmacy. If I need to make more purchases than I can carry, I take a little cart. The church we attend is just 6 blocks from us, & most of the members live here in the neighborhood. I take public transportation to work, which means I do some fast walking every weekday to & from the train & bus. I have dumbbells, resistance band, & several exercise videos/DVDs at home. This summer I'm doing my strength training on the back porch, surrounded by flowers & herbs in pots & with a view of our building's peaceful garden. And if I want to run just to run, I have my choice of the lakefront or the sidewalks of our neighborhood, all lined with trees.

    After living in suburbs for many years, I absolutely love city life & find that it really is MORE conducive to my health overall. - 6/10/2008 12:17:49 PM

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