Healthiest Places in America

Health, Medical Costs
Healthiest Places in America

The new year brings a renewed sense of motivation for many people who want to adopt healthier habits. Many of us will make resolutions to help focus on improving our health and well-being.

To shed some light on where the nation’s healthy folks live, NerdWallet analyzed fitness and health care data for the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas to find the healthiest places in the country. We looked at the following factors in our analysis:

Fitness levels. We measured the fitness levels across the U.S. using the American Fitness Index, which scores cities based on a variety of health metrics from several sources. We also included the percentage of residents who are at a healthy weight and the percentage of residents who do some kind of physical activity, as reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health care accessibility. We included the percentage of residents who have health insurance in addition to the number of physicians and surgeons per 100,000 residents to measure access to health care in each metro area.

Key findings

The healthiest places are Boston and the West Coast. Boston came in as the healthiest place in the U.S. by scoring well in all of the variables. Four of the other nine places in the top 10 are West Coast metro areas: San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and San Jose.

The unhealthiest cities are in the South. Seven of the bottom 10 places on the list are metro areas in Southern states, including three in Texas — Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. Residents in most of these places lag behind in terms of fitness and physical activity levels, while the rate of health insurance coverage is also lower than in many of the healthier places.

1. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Massachusetts and New Hampshire

The Greater Boston area is a hub for medical research and health care, so it’s not a surprise to see that it’s also home to the highest number of physicians per 100,000 residents of anywhere in the U.S. People living in Boston also have the highest levels of health insurance in the nation after a state law required that most people carry insurance. Health care accessibility, along with residents’ high level of fitness, is the reason why — for the second year in a row — Boston tops our list of healthiest places in the country.

2. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, California

The San Francisco Bay Area earns its spot on the list thanks to fit residents — the fitness index is among the highest of all places while the percentage of people who maintain a healthy weight is tops in the nation. The area boasts mild weather, and San Francisco is one of the nation’s most walkable places, so it’s no surprise to see that 83% of the city’s residents report participating in physical activity at least once a month, a much higher rate than the rest of the country.

3. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Oregon and Washington

The Portland metro area ranks even higher on our list than it did last year thanks to a boost in the fitness index and also a rise in the rate of health insurance coverage and the number of physicians for 100,000 residents. Portland is home to a healthy and active population, which includes the highest percentage of bicycle commuters in the nation.

4. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington

Residents in the Greater Seattle area score high on the fitness index, many maintain a healthy weight and they also are active. Seattle’s Healthy Parks, Healthy You Initiative promotes physical activity and wellness programs for the young and old in the diverse community.

5. Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, Colorado

The Denver metro area’s fitness index and the percentage of residents who do some kind of physical activity are among the highest of all places we analyzed. People who like to get outside in all seasons, especially in the winter, will enjoy Denver’s variety of recreational opportunities.

6. Salt Lake City, Utah

The Salt Lake City metro area scores highly in our fitness metrics, as well as for its high number of physicians per 100,000 residents. Much like Denver, the other Rocky Mountain city on this list, Salt Lake City has plenty of options for avid fans of winter sports.

7. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California

With warmer temperatures than San Francisco, its neighbor to the north, this Silicon Valley area’s weather is no doubt an attractive feature for its active population. San Jose offers over 53 miles of trails and 100 regional and neighborhood parks, where residents can take advantage of the more than 300 days of sunshine each year.

8. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota and Wisconsin

The Twin Cities metro area, which is home to two of the country’s top cities for recreational activities, has one of the highest fitness indexes of all 50 places. And the area also excels when it comes to health care: nearly 92% of residents have health insurance coverage. Although the weather tends to be colder than many other places on our list, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area’s air quality and green space is undoubtedly a benefit for those looking to lead a healthy lifestyle.

9. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford, a hub for the insurance industry, is home to health care companies such as Aetna. And since 92% of residents have health care insurance, it also is home to one of the most highly insured populations in the country. The Greater Hartford area’s relatively high fitness index helped make it the only northeast metro area in the top 10 healthiest places.

10. Washington, D.C.,-Arlington-Alexandria, Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia

The Washington, D.C., metro area owns the highest American Fitness Index score of all 50 metro areas we analyzed. Its large diverse population also has a high level of participation in physical activities. The National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity, which works to improve public health and increase levels of physical activity through policy and legislative efforts, is based in the nation’s capital.

50 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. ranked by overall health score

Rank Metro area Fitness index Percent of residents who are a healthy weight Percent of residents who engage in physical activity Percent of residents with health insurance Physicians and surgeons per 100,000 residents Overall health score
1 Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH 69.1 43.2% 78.5% 95.8% 514.2 88.3
2 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 71.0 44.8% 82.6% 89.0% 421.9 79.7
3 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 72.1 40.3% 84.2% 90.6% 407.0 78.0
4 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 69.3 42.3% 83.4% 87.6% 364.3 71.1
5 Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO 71.7 43.0% 83.8% 85.9% 334.3 68.6
6 Salt Lake City, UT 65.7 41.8% 81.7% 84.3% 420.1 67.9
7 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 69.4 39.7% 83.0% 88.9% 335.5 67.2
8 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 73.5 38.4% 82.9% 91.9% 290.5 67.0
9 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 63.8 38.0% 80.5% 92.0% 359.9 66.4
10 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 77.3 37.8% 80.7% 88.6% 350.5 65.8
11 Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, CA 66.9 40.9% 84.7% 85.9% 318.3 64.6
12 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 52.9 39.9% 75.8% 90.0% 444.6 63.7
13 Pittsburgh, PA 54.8 35.0% 76.4% 92.5% 428.4 61.6
14 Baltimore-Towson, MD 50.8 33.5% 76.0% 91.3% 476.9 60.8
15 New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 51.5 40.5% 75.4% 87.5% 433.4 59.5
16 San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA 69.2 41.2% 81.0% 83.7% 324.1 59.0
17 Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY 47.2 37.9% 76.1% 93.5% 369.8 58.3
18 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 45.7 39.1% 75.6% 90.4% 384.7 56.0
19 Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH 45.4 34.4% 77.3% 84.5% 499.4 55.2
20 Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA 51.6 35.7% 75.7% 91.0% 351.9 52.5
21 Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN 54.5 38.1% 74.6% 89.4% 334.3 51.2
22 Raleigh-Cary, NC 61.5 37.1% 79.6% 86.5% 278.1 50.3
23 Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI 56.6 38.8% 76.7% 86.0% 317.0 49.6
24 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 52.0 37.8% 77.2% 87.5% 304.8 48.5
25 Jacksonville, FL 46.6 38.6% 72.1% 88.3% 372.4 48.0
26 Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX 60.6 35.9% 80.7% 82.6% 303.9 47.4
27 Saint Louis, MO-IL 41.3 36.2% 74.5% 89.6% 350.9 46.5
28 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 46.0 35.5% 77.9% 82.9% 353.8 43.4
29 Indianapolis-Carmel, IN 32.3 36.2% 76.5% 86.4% 360.3 42.9
30 New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA 42.4 30.1% 73.1% 83.2% 490.4 42.4
31 Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI 37.3 32.9% 71.7% 88.7% 411.6 42.3
32 Kansas City, MO-KS 45.1 34.5% 77.0% 86.8% 304.1 41.7
33 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 53.4 37.5% 79.2% 79.8% 299.4 41.2
34 Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN 32.5 37.8% 73.3% 86.5% 347.0 39.9
35 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA 56.0 37.4% 77.9% 81.3% 256.1 38.7
36 Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ 44.0 36.0% 81.5% 82.6% 237.0 37.8
37 Richmond, VA 52.3 32.8% 73.8% 87.6% 283.5 37.7
38 Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC 48.1 37.0% 77.4% 84.1% 227.0 36.2
39 Birmingham-Hoover, AL 35.9 33.7% 70.8% 88.1% 351.7 36.0
40 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 25.7 33.7% 74.8% 87.6% 309.4 33.5
41 Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX 44.0 36.9% 76.4% 77.2% 301.2 31.3
42 Las Vegas-Paradise, NV 43.7 39.6% 76.3% 78.4% 208.9 27.8
43 Columbus, OH 41.3 34.5% 73.7% 83.3% 245.1 27.5
44 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL 49.0 34.2% 75.9% 75.2% 304.3 27.2
45 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 47.5 35.1% 76.4% 80.6% 207.4 27.0
46 Oklahoma City, OK 31.6 35.1% 71.5% 83.1% 277.4 24.8
47 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 42.6 36.4% 73.6% 78.5% 241.8 23.7
48 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 35.6 36.7% 73.5% 80.6% 221.6 22.5
49 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 40.8 34.3% 74.7% 79.5% 230.3 22.5
50 Memphis, TN-MS-AR 24.8 28.9% 73.9% 84.3% 226.6 16.3

 

Methodology

The overall score for each city was calculated from the following measures:

  1. Fitness index, from the American Fitness Index, is 16.7% of the score.
  2. Percent of residents who are a healthy weight is from the CDC and is 16.7% of the score.
  3. Percent of residents who engage in physical activity is from the CDC and is 16.7% of the score.
  4. Percent of residents with health insurance is from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey and is 25% of the score.
  5. The number of physicians and surgeons per 100,000 residents is from the American Community Survey and is 25% of the score.

Image via iStock.

  • Did you find this article helpful?
  • yes   no