Modern diets and increasingly sedentary technology-reliant lifestyles mean it's becoming increasingly difficult to stay in shape - especially in America. When unhealthy and additive-laden foods are even cheaper than healthy options, and long working hours make it difficult to exercise, the health of the nation suffers. This is why America is constantly one of the top spots in the world for obesity.
Not all is lost, however. There are healthier cities in the States, to which others are looking for lifestyle and diet tips. The slimmest - or least obese countries - have been ranked by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The index rates adults based on their BMI, and over 350,000 Americans were interviewed for the study. BMI Scores of 30 or higher - which takes into account height and weight - mean the participant is obese.
Although some cities are getting healthier, it's worth noting that all cities in the US - no matter how skinny - still have an obesity rate above 12%. This number should be alarming as things are only getting worse, and heavier. One thing's certain: the other states should follow these ten cities' examples, before the obesity levels reach closer to 30%.
10 Barnstable Town, MA. — 19.6 percent Obesity Rate
The number ten spot belongs to Barnstable, Massachusetts. 19.6% of residents are considered obese, which is reasonably low for the US. The city has plenty of options for healthy activities, including boating, walking and biking.
It boasts beautiful, scenic parks and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. There's really no excuse not to get outside and get active when living here. It's also the winner of the All-American City Award, although it does not share one common American trait: high rates of obesity.
9 Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT. — 19.6 percent Obesity Rate
The Greater Bridgeport area located in Connecticut is tied with Barnstable for obesity rates. The city boasts beautiful parks and walkways for people to get out of their cars. This, combined with a more healthy eating style, has contributed to lower rates of obesity. There are still many McDonald's, though, and cars are heavily relied upon. However, the city is on the road to promoting a healthier lifestyle with improved walkability.
8 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA. — 19.5 percent Obesity Rate
Next to Colorado, California boasts the greatest number of cities on the 'skinnies' list. This is likely thanks in part to the climate and beaches of the state. In the Sunnyvale area, for instance, there are lots of parks, including Las Palmas, Ortega, Washington and Baylands. Golfing is also very common here.
This part of California tends to see a large number of active people seeking the sun in any way possible. This, combined with fresh, local produce and a general culture of watching what they eat has helped to keep obesity at a lower rate than in many other parts of the U.S.A.
7 Denver-Aurora, CO. — 19.3 percent Obesity Rate
Aurora Colorado is made up of hundreds of subdivisions that border nature in some way. Filled with forests and lakes, the area is both beautiful (notice how beautiful places tend to have healthier people?) and open to many forms of outdoor activity. Hundreds of parks and trails are accessible for nature lovers, dog owners and bikers. The area can still work towards its anti-obesity goals, but for now, it seems to be doing alright compared to the rest of the country.
6 San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA. — 19.3 percent Obesity Rate
San Diego County is both temperate and scenic. The area is home to over 70 miles (110 km) of coastline with much opportunity for running, swimming, surfing and diving. The county is warm but the high mountains also benefit from winter snowfall. Like other areas of California, San Diego County offers a multitude of fun outdoor activities and fresh cuisine - after all, who would want to be inside when surrounded by beaches?
5 Bellingham, WA.— 18.7 percent Obesity Rate
Bellingham is a hub of activity. It offers outdoor opportunities, such as one the San Juan Islands, and is also close to Vancouver and Seattle where shopping abounds. People in Bellingham seem to enjoy leading a healthy, active lifestyle for the most part, with many locals taking place in the Ski to Sea race. This is a relay race that includes cross country skiing, running, biking and canoeing. Outside of the race, all of these activities are highly popular on their own.
4 Charlottesville, VA. — 18.7 percent Obesity Rate
Charlottesville, located in Virginia, is a smaller city that offers many unique experiences. Obesity rates here are 18.7 percent, which is far better than the majority of the country. Reasons for this are due to the pedestrian friendly streets, many hiking trails and overlooks. Many of the streets and sidewalks are quaint and made of bricks which add to the city's aesthetic appeal - definitely a city where one would want to leave their car at home.
3 Fort Collins-Loveland, CO. — 18.2 percent Obesity Rate
Fort Collins was named Money magazine's Best Place to Live in the US in 2006. It continued to make the list for years after due to its beauty and various activities. There are many parks and mountain trails around the city, as well as a University that many younger people. These students make up a large percentage of more fitness minded individuals, especially since they most likely are living on a budget (that may not involve a vehicle).
2 Naples-Marco Island, FL. — 16.5 percent Obesity Rate
Marco Island is the largest barrier island in the Southwest Florida area. It holds a tropical climate that brings in millions of tourists looking to enjoy the beaches - it seems that very few people want to be stuck inside here. The city also has a lot of shopping opportunities, as well as sports such as swimming, biking, volleyball and running. The island has many residents that value a lifestyle full of the outdoors and fresh food, such as fruits, vegetables and seafood.
1 Boulder, CO. — 12.4 percent Obesity Rate
By far Boulder Colorado is the least obese city in the US. It has a 12.4 percent obesity rate which is miles better than anywhere else in the U.S.. Not only does it currently hold the top spot for least obese city, it has done so nearly every year since the study began. People are far skinnier here, and the city also ranks among the highest in the country in terms of health, wellness, education, art and quality of life.
So just what is its secret? The locals' healthy lifestyles maximise the options for outdoor activities, including hiking trails, parks, wildlife and scenic views. The city's infrastructure also avoids a car-reliant lifestyle, with many people biking or simply walking to where they need to go. Many people who move to Boulder already value a lifestyle that abounds in outdoor recreation and healthy, low-fat, natural living. The rest of America can definitely take notes from Boulder.