How Healthy Is Your City?

Your Wellness


You know those lists? Healthiest cities. Fittest cities. Best cities for retirement. Best cities for singles. If memory serves me, the only list my city has appeared on was something about cities with the most overweight people. Not exactly a great claim to fame.

Livability.com recently released its list of the Top 10 Healthiest Cities for 2015, and, once again, my city, Norfolk, VA, isn't anywhere to be found. The lucky, healthy folks live in:

  1. Minneapolis, MN
  2. Cambridge, MA
  3. Madison, WI
  4. Miami, FL
  5. Bridgeport, CT
  6. Arlington, VA
  7. Santa Ana, CA
  8. Honolulu, HI
  9. Fort Collins, CO
  10. Yonkers, NY


Livability.com looks at what makes small to mid-sized cities great places to live, work and visit. Its healthiest cities rankings were based on access to quality, affordable health care and healthy lifestyles promoted through infrastructure and amenities. In other words, these 10 cities did a great job providing residents with exercise opportunities, good food choices and strong support networks to help live healthy lives.

My city and region also provide good health care, with several reputable hospital systems and a local medical school. And, living in a fairly temperate region of the South, we have plenty of access to fitness opportunities: an ocean and a bay for seasonal swimming or sailing; lakes and rivers for canoeing, kayaking and other water sports; and all kinds of gyms and fitness studios. Our area also probably ranks pretty well on parks, though maybe not so well on hiking and biking trails.

Truth is, I live in an old urban city, and it can be hard to retrofit our infrastructure to accommodate bike paths or to put a big ballpark in the middle of our city. Our parks, though plentiful, are mostly smaller inner-city parks, but they're great for taking your kids to the playground, strolling around on a sunny day or joining a pickup game of basketball or soccer, if you're so inclined. In addition, we have a wonderful zoo and a botanical garden, where my husband and I take longs walks on the weekends. And we have miles and miles of sidewalks, suitable for walking or jogging through our city's neighborhoods. We even have some pretty sweet boardwalks and seawalls, if you want to walk by the water. 

We may not have the greatest selection of farmers markets and fresh farm-to-table foods, but we have some—and the options are increasing.

I suspect where we fall short is on the equal-opportunity-for-all side of the equation, because much of my city lives on the lower end of the economic scale. The food, exercise and health care options may not be readily available to all.

Many cities these days are stepping up their game in terms of encouraging a healthy lifestyle. I'm confident my city could do more, but I also can do a better job of utilizing the opportunities I have.

I can take longer and more frequent walks through some of our lovely old neighborhoods. I can pump up my bike tires and ride to the grocery. I can go to the bay and swim in the summer. I can hit some tennis balls on the neighborhood courts instead of watching TV in the evenings.

And I can step away from the computer and go plant some summer vegetables in my backyard. Now that's a Top 10 idea! 

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