North America’s Healthiest Cities: Where do you rank?

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on June 28, 2009

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Healthy cities.

When you are in one, you just know you are. The city is alive, vibrant, active, and clean.

There are healthy restaurant options and gyms around every corner. There are abundant bike paths and jogging routes.

People seem happy and content with their lives.

In 2008, Best Health Magazine ranked Canada’s Top 20 Healthiest metropolitan cities:

1. Vancouver

2. Victoria
3. Calgary
4. Edmonton
5. Ottawa
6. Quebec
7. Halifax
8. Saskatoon
9. Summerside
10. Toronto
11. Winnipeg
12. Montreal
13. Charlottetown
14. Brandon
15. Corner Brook
16. St. John’s
17. Regina
18. Moncton
19. Saint John
20. Lunenburg

The cities were scored on various criteria such as alcohol use, air quality, amount of fruits and vegetables eaten, life expectancy, stress, # overweight, etc. You can read all the stats here.

Canadians: Do you live in or near one of the healthiest cities? Do you agree with the study results? Why or why not? Should your city be on that list? Or do you think you live in an unhealthy city?


The AARP Magazine, also selected the United State’s Top 10 healthiest cities in 2008:

1. Ann Arbor, Michigan


2. Honolulu, Hawaii

3. Madison, Wisconsin

4. Santa Fe, New Mexico

5. Fargo, North Dakota

6. Boulder, Colorado

7. Charlottesville, Virginia

8. Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington, Minnesota

9. San Fran, California

10. Naples, Florida

They also listed 9 cities that were noteworthy…

11. Sioux Falls, South Dakota

12. Boston, Cambridge, Quincy, Massachusetts

13. St Cloud, Minnesota

14. Bridgeport, Stamford, Norwalk, Connecticut

15. Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, California

16. Burlington, Vermont

17. Provo-orem, Utah

18. Portland, Maine

19. Fort Collins, Loveland, Colorado

I thought this chart was interesting to read:


US Readers: Do you live in a healthy city? Is your city healthy but not listed? Or do you think you have an unhealthy city? What needs to change?


For those of you outside of US and Canada, you can chime in on your city too!

I hope to do a post on the WORLD’s Healthiest cities too!


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{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne June 28, 2009 at 9:58 pm

Yay! Ottawa is #5! Not too shabby :)


Katherine June 28, 2009 at 10:00 pm

I wish I still lived in Boston b/c then I could say I lived in a healthy city! I do think NYC is pretty healthy, though I dont know if it has a very healthy body image. For one thing, NYers walk everywhere, so that has to count for something! I think it also has so many opportunities to encourage good health and I think that’s a very important aspect of the city.


Kelsey June 28, 2009 at 10:06 pm

ann arbor number one?! thats so awesome! i live about 20 minutes away from aa and i definitely love being around because it is just super natural to walk rather than drive, eat vegetarian/vegan rather than meat, and pretty much take healthy living very seriously rather than put it on the back burner. its very much the epitome of health!
great post!


Susan June 28, 2009 at 10:32 pm

I definitely don’t really live in a healthy city…people seem to think it’s weird when I’m running outside! I wish I lived in a more health mindful city, if only to meet more people like me!


ashley June 28, 2009 at 10:34 pm

oo, way to go minneapolis/st paul, mn! and i see my old stomping grounds st cloud MN is on the list too! it must be my stats that are making them rank well! ;)


Marissa June 28, 2009 at 10:37 pm

Hi there…I’m new to reading your blog. I’ve really been enjoying it though! I do not live in a healthy city, unfortunately. I live in New Olreans, LA. Too much alcohol drinking, not enough nature and natural living. I try daily to encourage healthiness in my city!


Heather @ Health, Happiness, and Hope June 28, 2009 at 10:37 pm

Wow, I’m actually surprised to see Wisconsin on those lists a few times. I didn’t realize we were a healthier state, especially considering that it’s winter 9 months of the year! ;) I really don’t know how healthy my own city is though… I definitely plan on moving somewhere that I can truly feel healthy and supported in my health-consciousness when I get out of college! I’d love to go for walks and have lots of gyms around me. Can you believe that the nearest yoga class is an HOUR away!? tsk-tsk! hehe.



april June 28, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Santa Fe got 4th?? Cool! I live about 30 minutes away from there!


kilax June 28, 2009 at 10:42 pm

I went to college in Ames, Iowa. I am surprised it is on that list so many times!


Kath June 28, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Good timing for our bakery research!!


Mandy Unruh June 28, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Yay! My hometown (Ann Arbor) is number one! Makes me homesick…


Low June 28, 2009 at 10:53 pm

I live in Oklahoma City, and I’m pretty sure we’re usually on the unhealthiest list. It’s not hard to see why – it’s hard to find healthy places to eat, and we drive everywhere. I hope we can make progress though and not always stay this way.

Thanks for all the lists!


Holly June 28, 2009 at 11:00 pm

I live in Santa Rosa, CA, which is about 40 minutes north of San Francisco, so it usually gets lumped into categories with it. My town is pretty healthy though – although it’s suburbia so there’s not a lot of walking like in the city, we have several state parks and a gazillion running groups, triathlete groups, and just a lot of very outdoorsy people. I love it here.


Jenn Eats Nutritiously Now June 28, 2009 at 11:03 pm

I’m pretty sure GA is in the top 10 UNhealthiest cities. It’s all the fried food, bbq, and Coca Cola. But I do love GA, so I don’t wanna bad-mouth it :)


Marcia June 28, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Santa Barbara made it to the “noteworthy” list! I agree with Santa Fe, too. I’ve got friends there. It seems like a pretty healthy place. Great place to get healthy food, too, but maybe that’s just because my friends are vegetarian…


Rose June 28, 2009 at 11:06 pm

I’m shocked DC didn’t make the cut. Even more shocked that Johnstown, PA (my hometown) is on that chart. Wow!


Katrina (gluten free gidget) June 28, 2009 at 11:17 pm

I live near the Sarasota/Naples area. Not too shabby!


MareBare June 28, 2009 at 11:32 pm

i live in santa barbara, ca one of the note-worthy cities and i definitely agree with it being healthy. everyone here is in amazing shape and bike, run, and walk everywhere. yay for good influences!!!


Laura June 28, 2009 at 11:33 pm

I always like looking at these studies that are released, it’s interesting for certain. I see that there is a fellow Wisconsinite who has commented – hi Heather! I am from Milwaukee, WI and am not surprised it’s not one of the healthier ones. Forbes Magazine once determined Milwaukee to be the hardest-drinking city in America. I feel like in the past few years things have improved to get people in my city out and more active… our parks system is among the nation’s finest with recent improvements. Maybe sometime soon we’ll get on the healthiest cities list!


Kayzilla June 28, 2009 at 11:35 pm

I live in North Richland Hills, Texas. It’s near Dallas/Fort Worth. People in North Richland Hills are fairly active considering there’s a ton of bike trails and nature parks nearby.. not really an abundant amount of healthy resteraunts. But there’s an abundance of overweight people here, and it’s fairly rare to see people actually commute from once place to the other on a bike or walk.. unless they’re still a minor and cannot get a car yet. XP


C June 28, 2009 at 11:42 pm

I just moved back to Ontario after living in Victoria (#2!!) for a few years. I have to say, the difference is ASTOUNDING. Victoria just bursts with vitality, and health and wellness are part of the city’s culture. Even the grocery stores were superior, carrying huge amounts of organic foods with a real focus on local goods, yet all at pretty affordable prices. Standing in the checkout line, I was amazed at how colourful and healthful everyone’s goods were. Where I live now, all I see at the check out is foil bags and cardboard boxes of processed junk, maybe some iceberg lettuce thrown in, and the only place to buy “health” food is at the overpriced health store on the other side of town. I also couldn’t believe how fit everyone looked – overweight and obese people were few and far between (excluding the tourists!). I think the weather had a lot to do with it (nice allllll year round), as well as BC’s liberal attitudes that put such emphasis on quality of life. Clean air; beautiful scenery; no winter(!); health-oriented, socially & environmentally-conscious population; easy access to affordable healthy food and hundreds of healthy dining out options; hugely popular yoga studios, gyms, etc, as well as plenty of space to play outside…Wow, why did I ever leave??? In my opinion, Victoria should outrank Vancouver. And it definitely outranks my current city of residence (near-ish Toronto) which is sometimes appalling in comparison…


leslie June 28, 2009 at 11:45 pm

bridgeport, ct is noteable? my hometown is like 20 minutes form there and let’s just say, that is shocking to me!

i live in nyc, and i think it’s definitely one of the healthier cities in terms of healthy food and exercise prevalence. in terms of being green and clean – it’s got a loooooong way to go.


kArLy June 29, 2009 at 12:11 am

i’m in the 8th healthiest city! whooo saskatoon!


Cuts and Curves June 29, 2009 at 12:58 am

I’m shocked that Edmonton is so high on the list!


Jessica June 29, 2009 at 2:13 am

I have ex-step family that lives near Madison, WI! They actually live in a small town right outside of it. However they don’t necessarily fall in those statistics …. Haha!
I however was born and raised in Missouri and I live in Omaha, NE now and while Missouri seemed average, Nebraska is fat fat fat!!!! I wish we had more healthy shops around here. I would kill for a Froyo type place of some sort with all the fresh berries … the closest we have is TCBY…….. ARGH!


Tay June 29, 2009 at 2:29 am

Oh how funny! The town where I am now (going to school) is actually listed on there under the health care section! I never see my actual town listed (just nearby large cities – like San Fran). But I’m currently in San Luis Obispo..funny that it’s actually listed. It’s a relatively small town with a population of about 40,000!


Marissa M June 29, 2009 at 4:59 am

I live in honolulu, hi!! very cool that my city is listed! Thats very interesting.. I wonder what they base their ratings on..


Amanda June 29, 2009 at 5:59 am

I live excatly between Burlington, VT and Boston, MA. So I guess I’m covered!!! Not to mention I work for Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Home of the first medical school!!!


Carolyn June 29, 2009 at 6:50 am

Woo woo…Ann Arbor is great…I live 20 minutes away in a bedroom community of A2. That town is expensive to live IN, and a large college town. They are not kidding about the healthy potential… if you want to take advantage… U of M helps to influence, as do a million health food stores (two WFd’s and a TJ’s + others) and a beautiful town with lots to do. Since it was AARP selecting i am sure the HUGE UM hospital went into their equation also… Go BLUE!…even though i am technically a SPARTAN..go MSU ;-)


April June 29, 2009 at 7:55 am

I live in Greenwood Indiana. Indiana itself i’m sure is very unhealthy. There are little towns here and there though that you can tell are getting on the health bandwagon and that makes me happy.


Susan June 29, 2009 at 8:19 am

AS IF Saint John is healthy city!!! Only if breathing in oil refinery fumes is good for your health! Ewewewew. Maybe it’s just because it has a huge park that Irving built? I’m from Moncton, and it’s got some great things, but the river there will never compare to the river in Fredericton. I think Freddy could give the other two NB cities a run for their money ;)


Madison June 29, 2009 at 8:22 am

I wish my city was listed as healthy b/c I believe Raleigh, NC is very healthy! Even though it is in the south and full of deep fried goodness, Raleigh is starting to open up to more organic and fresher options! AND lots of walking trails all over the city.


kim June 29, 2009 at 8:28 am

Ann Arbor ROCKS! I totally can see why it’s so healthy – so many people bike and walk around the university. there were SO many healthy restaurant options too. I loved living there while in school and thought briefly about staying there afterwards.

Where I live now is not healthy. There are barely any bike paths and often, there aren’t even sidewalks to walk! They keep expanding the roads to make room for car commuters which eliminates the non car pathways. And there are no initiatives and health fairs like I see in other cities. Other than the farmer’s markets, good luck finding organic anything.


Nicole of Raspberry Stethoscope June 29, 2009 at 8:31 am

I have a feeling that my city would rank pretty low…


Angela (Oh She Glows) June 29, 2009 at 8:39 am

How much do you guys think factors like smog and overall frindliness of the city should give weight to the studies?


Jenn June 29, 2009 at 8:43 am

Waaaah, I don’t live in a healthy Canadian city (Windsor). For the most part the population is overweight and it’s so polluted down here. Some of us however, try to break the norm ;) On a good note, we are only 45 minutes from Ann Arbor and it is an AMAZING place – like said above, much thanks to the U of M.

I miss Fredericton – which I’m surprised didn’t make one of the healthiest cities. Every time I visit I’m impressed how such a relatively small city is so progressive when it comes to healhty living.


Valerie June 29, 2009 at 8:46 am

I was surprised to see Toronto on the list. But then I clicked on the link and saw that they’d chosen the cities ahead of time, two per province. I thought that was kind of an odd method, rather than looking at the actual healthiest cities. Considering Toronto’s poor air quality (a 0, the worst score, on their scale) I was surprised they would choose it out of all the other cities in Ontario.

I think Waterloo, where I live, would probably be fairly high up there, if chosen. The air quality is much better here, there are bike paths (though not as many bike lanes on the roads unfortunately) and parks for recreational activities, RIM Park, and we’ve got a nice supply of fruits and veggies from the Mennonites and farming community all around us so I can’t imagine people not making use of that.

One thing I found interesting was the rating of self-rated good health and that some cities scored very low, especially considering their position on the list and overall score!


LindsayH June 29, 2009 at 9:33 am

Ames, IA! That’s me.
That’s interesting, I had no idea!
97.9% of the people here have health insurance, that is AMAZING. I guess it is because most people work for the University (Iowa State Univ.) or are students at the University. I also think it’s interesting that we made the top of the list for the longest life expectancy. We really do not have very many elderly people here, so I guess the ones we do have are healthier. Also that good insurance coverage probably helps with a long life! I’m sure the lack of violent crime contributes too.


Nicole of Raspberry Stethoscope June 29, 2009 at 9:40 am

Totally off topic. Angela, the shorts that you’re wearing here:

are they lululemon? Do you know what they’re called? Thanks.


Amy June 29, 2009 at 9:47 am

Go Ottawa! WOO HOO!


TorontoGirloutWest June 29, 2009 at 10:24 am

I am originally from Toronto but I lived in Victoria for four years and I’ve spent oodles of times in Vancouver (feels like a 3rd home).

I have to say I agree with Vancouver and Victoria being at the top of the list although I think Victoria should have ended up first.

Living in Toronto I always heard about the “lifestyle” of the West Coast and how it resulted in people being healthier. Pish posh I though! How wrong I was!!!!

The weather helps oodles. Nice weather pretty well all year long means you’re more likely to spend time outdoors. There are running paths and huge parks right near the downtown of both cities (Vancouver and Victoria). Everyone is really into a healthy organic kind of lifestyle. Yes it’s not cheap but it seems so much more prevalent on the West Coast.

Did I mention gyms a plenty? Honestly you can’t throw a rock without hitting a gym or yoga studio. I love that!

PLUS the biggest advantage that Victoria has (much more than Vancouver) is that it’s such a walkable city. If you live in Victoria proper you can get a ton done without having to own a car. I used to walk to the beach, work, the gym, Chinatown. The whole deal! Avoiding a car and walking instead made such a huge difference to my waist line.

Basically I could go on and on raving about the West Coast lifestyle!

PS: Last August I moved to a small town in the Canadian Rockies. Not as healthy. Barely any gyms. And you have to drive everywhere (that includes massive off-road drives to get to trail heads). I miss Victoria something fierce!!


Jackie June 29, 2009 at 10:26 am

I live in shoreline Connecticut…not more than 20 minutes away from Bridgeport/Norwalk/Stamford. I think all of the shoreline is really “healthier” than most places. The beaches, state parks, and opportunities for health are across a lot of the state. There is access to naturopathic physicians (covered by some insurance companies) as well as holistic wellness centers, and natural food stores. I know in my town and the surrounding towns the health resources are tremendous. Obviously there could be more done, but I think the area is doing pretty well.


Recipes for Creativity June 29, 2009 at 11:05 am

I currently live outside of Asheville, North Carolina. I would say it’s a pretty healthy city for the south because there is a huge local food movement and lots of outdoor activities. I know the south overall isn’t the healthiest place, but I still feel healthy!


Kaolee June 29, 2009 at 11:12 am

My city (Atlanta) definitely did not make it!


Katharina June 29, 2009 at 11:34 am

No wonder my parents love to go vacationing in Naples! It’s such a relaxing area and so many people do things to enjoy life’s moments. And they do it with such calm and youthfulness :)


Menden (SkinnyMenny) June 29, 2009 at 12:08 pm

I live near Philadelphia, which apparently is not only one of the fattest cities in the US, but also the UGLIEST! Grrrr!


Monica June 29, 2009 at 12:26 pm

I live in Dallas. I can see a lot of reasons that Dallas is not yet on the list, but it is exciting to see positive healthy changes coming to our city. A 3.5 mile long run/bike trail is being constantly improved as is the trail around the lake. Both are in use by walkers, runners, rollerbladers and bikers of all ages (despite the swealtering heat we’ve had lately). There are great plans to build more parks and greenspace in the downtown area too!


Bridget June 29, 2009 at 12:33 pm

I live in Victoria, so it’s nice to see it on the list! I must say that it is a pretty healthy city. There are not many overweight people, and several healthy food options. I see a lot of people running, biking and walking around my neighbourhood.


Bree June 29, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Wow! I have lived in 3 of the American cities. Very cool to see. Mpls/St. Paul has a great biking community with lots of trails to explore in the metro.


Aaron @ CrossBorderCravings June 29, 2009 at 12:53 pm

It’s interesting that the healthiest cities in Canada are all OUT WEST!! This only inspires me even more to move out there, lol. Ontario is barely mentioned! :o(


Jackie June 29, 2009 at 12:58 pm

I should also add that I have been to Honolulu from a “local” point of view…and I can tell you that I am NOT surprised they are number 2 on the list. Because, they are all about activity and fresh food. Surfing and fish are two staples of the lifestyle there and you can tell by the people who live there enjoy life.


Rachel June 29, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Yay for Fort Collins and Loveland, CO! I grew up in Loveland and moved to Fort Collins about 6 years ago. We have lots of hiking/biking/walking trails available, healthy food (grocery and restaurants) and lots of sunshine! SO GLAD I live here!!


Bree June 29, 2009 at 1:07 pm

I definitely think Burlington, VT is a healthy city. I used to live a few doors down from someone who competed in the Ironman competition and my other neighbors were triathletes. Talk about motivation to get moving!


Tara June 29, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Yay for Quebec city!!
With all the hills and stairs here, no subway, and beautiful parks along the river no wonder we’re healthier than Montrealers ;)


Nikbis June 29, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Ahh all the more reason to move back to Halifax – its 10 cities healthier than St John’s (where I just moved to a month ago)!!! They don’t even really recycle here – they just throw everything away except cans and plastic bottles.

Yep here is St John’s – milk cartons, compost, EVERYTHING goes in the garbage – its so gross and sad.

I know its not really a “health” concern, but the planet should be a health concern IMO!!

In Halifax, we recycled tons of stuff, even had the green bins for compost. Ahhhhh I loved it there.

Thanks for posting this! Gave a me a reason to vent a little something that’s been on my mind ;)


Beverly June 29, 2009 at 3:11 pm

I’m from Atlanta, GA and it’s horribly unhealthy. Vast amounts of smog make it difficult to breath when you walk outside, especially in this hot, humid weather we’re having down here!


Isha June 29, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Ithaca for greenest commuters!! That’s my hometown – I lived there for 18 years – and this choice is spot on. The downtown area is really conducive to biking and walking, and it being a college town, a lot of professors live within walking/biking distance to campus. It’s great to see it represented!

This survey also gives me a great place to start when I begin looking for places to move after grad school. :-)


[email protected] June 29, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Yay Boston!We have great access to healthcare here, and there are TONS of runners! I love our awesome running paths along the Charles, the South Boston coastline, and the harbor. I would LOVE to visit most of the Canadian cities on the list!


Gloria June 29, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Interesting, Edmonton is ranked number 4.
I think we are pretty unhealthy.
The long weather makes working out outdoor quite impossible
(well I don’t want to go jog outside when it’s -25)
and the price of fruits and veggies are expensive
it’s just way cheaper to eat meat here
There are quite a lot of overweight people here too
so I just find it weird that Edmonton is ranked so high
And it’s also not that easy to eat vegan here


Ashley July 3, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Ooo I’m so proud of my city (Vancouver)!!


Bart Dumpcake September 16, 2014 at 2:45 pm

All the things I love: Hockey, Ann Arbor, Organic food, American women who like hockey, Canadian Women and Torch Lake.


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