America's Top 20 Healthiest Cities
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. See which cities made the top 20.
No. 20: Richmond, VirginiaVirginia’s capital rounds out the list thanks, in part, to all its dog parks. If you’re visiting with your pooch, check out Ruff House Dog Park at Rockwood Park, an off-leash dog park that’s a favorite among locals. You’ll also routinely see Richmond residents get in their exercise alongside their furry friends on historic Monument Avenue. 960 1280
No. 19: ClevelandCleveland makes the list for its ample recreation facilities and park-related spending. The city is home to the new $11 million Collinwood Recreation Center, which is free for all to use, even nonresidents of the city. Another big attraction is the West Side Market (pictured), the oldest operating indoor/outdoor market space in the city. 960 1280
No. 18: Virginia Beach, VAVirginia Beach consistently ranks among America’s fittest cities. The oceanfront city boasts many light and non-lighted tennis courts across town, and the area is home to 265 parks, totaling more than 4,000 acres of land. 960 1280
No. 17: BaltimoreBaltimore 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 7 volleyball courts. 960 1280
No. 16: PittsburghPittsburgh didn’t rank too well in terms of “healthy eating.” However, the city has many opportunities for visitors and residents to stay active outside. Renting a bike is easy at Golden Triangle Bike Rental, with their main location on the Eliza Furnace Trail. Hourly and daily rentals are available for the entire family. All rentals include a helmet, bike lock and self-guided trail map. 960 1280
No. 15: Raleigh, North CarolinaRaleigh 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. 960 1280
No. 14: San DiegoAlong 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. 960 1280
No. 13: CincinnatiLocals in Cincinnati find plenty of outdoor inspiration in this stretch of southwest Ohio, from hopping aboard a riverboat cruise to kicking back in the city’s new 45-acre Riverfront Park. On the food front, Findlay Market delivers as Ohio’s oldest continuously operated public market. 960 1280
No. 11: Austin, Texas<a title="Austin, TX" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/destinations/austin/articles/austin-city-guide" target="_blank">Austin, TX</a>, has <a title="superb food" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/destinations/austin/articles/austins-best-food-carts" target="_blank">superb food</a>. 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. 960 1280
No. 10: San Jose, CaliforniaOften 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. 960 1280
No. 9: Hartford, ConnecticutThe 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. 960 1280
No. 8: SeattleBeach 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. 960 1280
No. 7: Sacramento, CaliforniaIn 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. 960 1280
No. 6: BostonBeantown 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 <a title="Boston" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/destinations/boston/articles/travel-channels-guide-to-boston" target="_blank">Boston</a>. The city is also the birthplace of <a title="November Project" href="http://november-project.com" target="_blank">November Project</a>, 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. 960 1280
No. 5: DenverOutdoors 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. 960 1280
No. 4: San FranciscoThe 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. 960 1280
No. 3: Portland, OregonWith more than 10,000 acres of public parks, including 300 miles of greenways and bike boulevards, 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. 960 1280
No. 2: Washington, DCWashington, 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. 960 1280
No. 1: Minneapolis-St. PaulFor the third year in a row, 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. 960 1280
MacauMacau has the second-highest life expectancy in the world, according to the CIA World Factbook. Some point to this Chinese territory’s strong (largely gambling-based) economy -- about 70% of money generated on the casino floor is invested by Macau’s government into healthcare.
Average Life Span: 84.41 years
Typical Diet: Mainly plant- and seafood-based 960 1280
San MarinoThe 30,000 citizens of this tiny microstate, landlocked by Italy, enjoy one of the longest life spans in the world. San Marino has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, no national debt, a budget surplus, and roughly half its people actively practice their faith -- all possible factors.
Average Life Span: 83.01 years
Typical Diet: Similar to cuisine in Italy's Emilia-Romagna and Marche regions 960 1280
MonacoIt may be the second-smallest -- and the most densely populated -- country in the world, but Monaco sees the world’s highest life expectancy. It doesn’t hurt that the Western European country, on the French Riviera, is home to the highest number of millionaires and billionaires per capita in the world.
Average Life Span: 89.73 years
Typical Diet: Largely Mediterranean 960 1280
SardiniaSardinia ties with Okinawa for having the highest ratio of centenarians in the world -- 22 centenarians per 100,000 people. The island, 120 miles off Italy’s coast, is home to rugged terrain great for calorie-burning. Come evening, locals enjoy a glass of red wine alongside humor-filled conversation -- in fact, the word “sardonic” originates in Sardinia.
Average Life Span: 81 years
Typical Diet: Plants and beans; sheep cheese and goat’s milk; meat eaten as an accent 960 1280
IcelandIceland has the sixth-highest life expectancy in the world, according to United Nations’ figures. One possible reason is Iceland’s low levels of pollution (geothermal energy reliance is the norm). The country’s low levels of common illnesses, such as heart disease and depression, are also linked to a daily diet rich in fish oil.
Average Life Span: 81.28 years
Typical Diet: Fish; pasture-raised lamb and wild game; black tea, veggies, wild berries and whole grains 960 1280
Loma Linda, CaliforniaJust 60 miles from the fast-paced LA scene, the town of Loma Linda, CA, is home to America’s longest living population -- and some say it’s a matter of faith: Many of the town’s 23,000 residents are members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, a religion whose members typically live 4 to 7 years longer (with more health and happiness) than the rest of the country.
Average Life Span: Well into the 80s
Typical Diet: Vegetarianism is a popular practice among 7th Day Adventists; most restaurants in town accommodate with a vegetarian menu option. 960 1280
OkinawaElderly Okinawans have among the lowest death rates in the world from common diseases -- a fact attributed to a traditional Japanese diet, with only 25% of its sugar and 75% of its grain intake. In recent years, though, younger Okinawans’ move toward fattier foods (Spam is now sometimes added to stir-fries) has led to lower life expectancy.
Average Life Span: 5 times as many Okinawans live to be 100 as their compatriots elsewhere in Japan.
Typical Diet: Lots of fish, soy and legumes 960 1280
AustraliaSurfs up in Australia -- the country now surpasses the UK, Canada, New Zealand and the US in overall life expectancy rates, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. A low smoking rate, coupled with an active lifestyle, is among the reasons. That good fortune isn’t universal, though: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples still trail behind.
Average Life Span: For women, 83.7 years; men, 79.2 years
Typical Diet: Shrimp on the barbie, mate! 960 1280
AndorraThis tiny European nation, wedged in quiet isolation between France and Spain, also boasts many long-timers. An active lifestyle, encouraged by some of the best skiing and day hikes in the Pyrenees, is a big reason. So is Andorrans’ focus on family and friends. The influx of tourism (and fast food) is quickening life’s pace, though.
Average Life Span: 82.51 years
Typical Diet: Mediterranean-style, with meat, veggies and fish from Andorra’s larger neighbors 960 1280
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa RicaIn this 75-mile-long stretch of Costa Rica, longevity rules supreme: The 75,000 Nicoyans who call this peninsula home have more than 4 times the chance of making it to 90 than a 60-year-old in America. Maybe it’s because of the area’s relative calm -- it’s home to some of the country’s most isolated and beautiful beaches.
Average Life Span: Well into the 90s
Typical Diet: Meso-American diet includes beans, squash and corn tortilla; also, the area’s calcium- and magnesium-rich water, which strengthens bones and relaxes arteries, is an added benefit. 960 1280
GuernseyThis second-largest island in the English Channel sees a high standard of living -- and long life expectancy. Islanders’ relative wealth may be the reason; it’s the sixth-richest place in the world. Other life-enhancing perks include Guernsey’s low tax rates and high-paying jobs, which afford residents top healthcare options.
Average Life Span: 82.24 years
Typical Diet: Champagne wishes and caviar dreams … come true 960 1280
IsraelIsrael has the fifth-longest life expectancy in the world. The top 3 cities ranked by life expectancy are Ra’anana (85.5 years), Modiin-Maccabim-Reut (84.1) and Beith Shemesh (83.1); the bottom 2 cities are Nazareth (77.9) and Rahat (77.1) -- a gap that’s been narrowing over the past few decades, with a 7-year gain among Israeli Arabs since 1980.
Average Life Span: 81.5 years
Typical Diet: Fusion of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines 960 1280
Ikaria, GreeceBlue Zones author Dan Buettner has called this the “island where people forgot to die.” The 10,000 residents of this island in Greece typically live well into their 90s. Laid-back, daily socializing may be one reason. As one resident told Buettner: “When you invite someone to lunch, they might come at 10 a.m. or 6 p.m. We simply don’t care about the clock here.”
Average Life Span: 1 in 3 residents lives into their 90s
Typical Diet: Vegetables from the garden, legumes, greens and lots of olive oil 960 1280
Hong KongIt’s not just remote, slow-paced corners of the world that see long life spans. Hong Kongers are among the longest living people in the world. That’s especially true for Hong Kong’s women, who live longer than most other populations in the world. Experts credit a tradition in Hong Kong of dawn workouts, such as daily swims and morning hikes.
Average Life Span: 86.7 years for women, 80.5 years for men
Typical diet: Cantonese food, big on steamed fish and vegetables 960 1280
SingaporeSingapore ranks as one of the top places in the world for life expectancy – signaling great strides in the country’s public health initiatives and economic opportunity. Over the last 3 decades, Singaporeans have seen their life expectancies increase by 10 years. Adult obesity is around 11% -- far lower than many Western countries.
Average Life Span: 82.14 years
Typical Diet: Mix of Chinese, Indian and Malay cuisines 960 1280
Blue Lagoon, Iceland"After I saw Samantha Brown and Anthony Bourdain take a dip (separately, of course) in the otherworldly Blue Lagoon, Iceland quickly moved to the top of my bucket list. Seeing the steamy Blue Lagoon firsthand literally took my breath away. I ended up spending an entire day soaking in the geothermal seawater and emerged feeling like a new person -- and looking like a new one, too. The mineral-rich water is a natural fountain of youth." -- Kathleen, Producer 960 1280
Spa at the St. Julien Hotel"As a man, I was skeptical at first … a spa, really? But after an evening of drinks, the only thing better than sleeping off an epic headache was to head down to the spa at the St. Julien Hotel. Take a dip in the spa’s indoor pool, then hop over to the hot tub -- fit for a king! Afterward, grab a cup of their extremely refreshing cucumber water (seriously, it was good). Top-notch facilities with a very friendly staff (not to mention good-looking), St. Julien’s spa is fit for any occasion." -- Ben, Producer 960 1280
Mii Amo Spa (Sedona, AZ)"There’s nothing more relaxing to me than experiencing the beauty of Mother Nature, from the comfort of a spa. This past year, I put the red rocks of Sedona, AZ, on my getaway list. One of my favorite stops was the Mii amo Spa at Enchantment Resort, where you can indulge in one of the many innovative spa treatments offered daily. Take a cue from Cleopatra herself and try the spa’s milk-and-honey bath inspired by her beauty regimen!"
-- Vanessa, Photo Editor 960 1280
Las Olas Surf Safari
"Calling all adventurous ladies! Get away from it all in one of Las Olas's open-air villas, complete with ocean view terraces, plunge pools and enough hibiscus and bougainvillea to make you feel like you've escaped to a secluded treehouse. Enjoy a yoga session, a sea mud facial or a sea salt body scrub before heading out for your twice-daily surf lesson. When you get back from hitting the waves, learn some vital life skills with on-site margarita and guacamole-making lessons." -- Amanda, Producer
Bishop, California“Go on a bouldering adventure in one of America’s best climbing spots. You may not think a physically demanding adventure is the best way to recharge, but not only do you escape the hectic urban chaos, you can take a few moments to relax and appreciate this stretch of California’s natural beauty, such as the view of the Buttermilks with its massive glacial boulders sitting on the foothills of the Sierras. Bishop offers a lifetime worth of climbing, so even if you can only go for a short time, be sure to grab a guidebook and escape to this bouldering mecca.” -- Arthur, Video Project Manager 960 1280
Big Timber, Montana“One of the best places to recharge is under the wide open skies of sunny Montana. June is the best time of year to visit this expanse of central Montana. Head to a working ranch like the Rocking M Bunkhouse, located near the Absaroka Mountains. Saddle up for an authentic western experience: Ride a horse, see nearby Yellowstone (and Old Faithful), and swing by a rodeo for more fast-paced action. At the end of a long day, enjoy a hearty home-cooked meal and do some stargazing from the private bunkhouse's wide porch. You might even meet a cowboy.” -- Lisa, Producer 960 1280
Red Fox Inn
“Sometimes all it takes to recharge is a weekend getaway. Middleburg, VA, may be just an hour from Washington, DC, but it feels like a world away. When I’m feeling a little suffocated by city life, I make my escape to this quaint, historic town's acres of well-tended pastures surrounded tidy post-and-beam fences. Stay at the downtown Red Fox Inn, browse the antique shops, stock up on horse- and hunt-inspired gifts, and spend an afternoon just sipping coffee at the Market Salamander.”
-- Allee, Producer 960 1280
East Canyon Hotel & Spa“Escape to California’s Coachella Valley and rejuvenate at the gay-friendly East Canyon Hotel and Spa in Palm Springs. This resort has a fully-staffed spa onsite, with a variety of massages, facials and treatments available to guests, including a heated-stone massage, an aloe vera full-body detoxifying wrap and a papaya enzyme peel. Also recommended, especially for the adventurous traveler, is a hike in the nearby San Jacinto Mountains.”
-- Kwin, Managing Producer 960 1280