Are you ready to find your fit?

By Iris Stone

There are lots of factors to consider when searching for the best college for you. One such factor to consider is the surrounding town(s). It’s doubtful that you’ll spend 100% of your time on campus, so you’ll probably want to think about what kind of attractions are nearby and what kinds of activities are popular with the local community. And if you’re a health nut, you’ll definitely want to consider towns that will cosign your obsession with an active lifestyle and nutritious eating.


To assist you on this quest, we set out to establish the 50 healthiest towns in America for college students. Rather than research every single city in the country, we stuck to 185 “metropolitan statistical areas,” which are geographic entities defined by the Census Bureau that usually encompass a few cities in close proximity to one another. In determining the healthiest, we collected data in eight categories:

1. How many people are physically active, as defined by how many people responded positively to survey questions regarding physical activity in the last month.
2. Body weight, as defined by the percentage of people who weigh in with a BMI in the normal range.
3. Incidence of heart disease.
4. Incidence of diabetes.
5. Incidence of depression.
6. Percentage of people who profess to be current smokers.
7. Fruit and vegetable consumption, as defined by the percentage of people 18 and over who eat fruits and vegetables 5 or more times a day.

We then collected data on the number of college students living in each town, using www.city-data.com . We looked up all the cities encompassed by each MSA (usually one to three) and made a list of all the colleges and universities in or around the cities. We then calculated the number of college students living in each MSA by adding together the number of students attending each institution. We used the number of college students as the 8th indicator, so that the ranking would favor healthy cities with high numbers of college students. By ranking each MSA in each of the eight categories, we were able to assign the MSA’s “points” based on their performance, weighting each category equally.

Finally, we calculated the 50 MSA’s with most overall points and listed them below. They are listed according to their ranking, so Bellingham is the 50th healthiest place to go to college, while San Jose/ Santa Clara is the #1 healthiest. We also listed many of the universities and colleges in each MSA so you can get a good sense of what options are available to you.

50. Bellingham, Washington

Western Washington University, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham Technical College, Northwest Indian College

Bellingham’s slogan is “Let Us Surprise You.” What may surprise you is that while it rains frequently in Bellingham, it actually gets fewer inches of rainfall than Miami and Boston. The town ranks very well for weight, with 43.9% of residents within a normal weight range. Bellingham residents are quite active as well, with 81.8% engaging in exercise. The city is also known to be eco-conscious, where people often choose to bike or walk to help the environment. This seems to be working, as evidenced by its exceptional air quality, rated among the top ten cities for clean air by the American Lung Association. Residents are also lured into staying active by their proximity to both Mount Baker for snow sports, and to Bellingham Bay and local lakes for water sports, whale watching, and winter polar dips.

49. Missoula, Montana

University of Montana, North Idaho College, University of Idaho, Washington State University

Brad Pitt and cast made Missoula fly fishing famous in the movie A River Runs Through It, though fishing in its three major rivers is hardly the only outdoor activity to enjoy in Missoula. Hike up 620 feet in less than a half-mile to enjoy “The M” on Mount Sentinel, a favorite local workout. Attend a rodeo in the summer, and in the winter try dogsledding, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling. The many options are what keep 83.2% of Missoula residents physically active with some of the very lowest rates of diabetes (4.7%) and heart disease (2.2%) in the country. The area also boasts hot springs, including the commercial Lolo Hot Springs and natural springs as well. Skaters will enjoy Mobash State Park, one of the top five skate parks in the nation. History buffs can travel a piece of the Lewis and Clark trail from Missoula to Lewiston, Idaho.

48. Kahului-Wailuku, Hawaii

University of Hawaii Maui College

It may not surprise you to know that residents on the island of Maui have very low depression rates. The island comprises several microclimates, all of them comfortable ones. With more than 80 beaches, Maui has some of the best windsurfing, sailboarding, diving, and snorkeling in the Pacific, activities that help to keep a high 40% of residents in a normal weight range and keep heart disease at low rate (2.6%). Only 13.1% of residents smoke. If the beaches aren’t enough to keep you feeling healthy and happy, take in the scenery! Watch the sunrise from the Haleakala Crater and then bike down 10,000 feet of elevation to the ocean. Drive the Road to Hana and spot the 600 curves, 54 bridges, and many waterfalls. In winter months, Maui boasts some of the world’s best whale watching. The relaxed atmosphere is also home to wellness options such as alternative healing, massage, bodywork, yoga, and chi gung.

47. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Virginia

ECPI College of Technology, Regent University, Centura College, Advanced Technology Institute, Norfolk State University, Tidewater Community College, Old Dominion University, Hampton University, Thomas Nelson Community College, Christopher Newport University

Three features distinguish Virginia’s Tidewater area. First, it holds some of the richest colonial history of America, housing Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown settlements. History fans of all ages will enjoy working the settlements and viewing life as it was for the earliest European settlers. Second are its contributions to shipbuilding and naval history. Newport News Shipbuilding is one of the nation’s oldest and has built many of our foremost vessels. Tour the Norfolk naval base or see the Chesapeake Bay from a tall ship. Third, Virginia Beach welcomes you to the best beaches in the state, hosting water activities like the East Coast Surfing Championships and “extreme flyboarding.” With so many ways to keep busy, it’s not surprising that 79.3% of residents are physically active and depression levels are low. Tidewater residents eat well, too, with 27.3% of adults getting their five daily fruits and vegetable servings.

46. Eugene, Oregon

University of Oregon, Lane Community College, Bushnell University, Oregon State University, Western Oregon University, Line-Benton Community College, Willamette University

Situated in Willamette Valley, Eugene is Oregon’s second largest city. The area is the agricultural center of the state, and the prevalence of family produce farms may be why a high percentage of Eugene residents reach recommended fruit and vegetable consumption. Other area farms house vineyards that bottle award-winning pinot noir. Eugene has a higher percentage of active residents than almost every MSA in the country, at 85.7%. The city offers riverfront parks and many trails for cycling, hiking, running, and mountain biking. Not far away explore the scenic Oregon coast for water sports or the Cascade Mountains for plenty of winter fun in the snow. Staying so active and eating local produce seems to pay off for Eugene, with a respectably high 37.6% of residents in a normal weight range.

45. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids Community College, Calvin College, Davenport University, Cornerstone University, Aquinas College, Everest Institute, Grand Valley State University, Hope College, Muskegon Community College, Western Michigan University

While Grand Rapids does average about 75 inches of snowfall each year, the snow doesn’t stop 79.9% of residents from staying physically active. Some may train for the Fifth Third Riverbank Run, the country’s largest 25K road race. Some may hit the trails in the Best Town for Mountain Biking, as named by Outside magazine. Some may just enjoy the walkable downtown area as they move to and from activities. Grand Rapids also has the healthy advantage of local farming, as Michigan is the third largest apple producer in the U.S. and is behind only California in agricultural diversity. This may contribute to the city’s high percentage of residents in a normal weight range (38.8%) and its low diabetes rate (9%). An interesting mix, Grand Rapids has been called one of the nation’s Most Exciting Mid-Sized Cities by Movoto but also the #2 Most Secure Large City by Farmers Insurance.

44. Reno, Nevada

University of Nevada-Reno, Truckee Meadows Community College

Reno is nicknamed the Biggest Little City in the World. Nevadans from this area have among the lowest incidence of diabetes and heart disease in the nation, and a relatively high percentage (39.6%) are in a normal weight range. Their weight may correlate to a high level of activity, with 82.5% of residents getting regular exercise. The milder climate of the high desert makes it easier to enjoy Reno’s growing number of bike lanes and paths, and the city is home to BaseCamp, a 164-foot climbing wall with great views. Nearby at Lake Tahoe, the country’s largest alpine lake, enjoy water sports or mountain biking with stunning backdrops all around. Winter sports at Lake Tahoe are also plentiful, where 400 inches of snow falls each year. Fans of the old west can visit Virginia City, once a thriving mining town. Lastly, don’t forget to stop at one of the city’s many farmers markets to pick up local produce.

43. Baltimore-Towson, Maryland

Johns Hopkins University, University of Maryland – Baltimore County, The Community College of Baltimore County, Morgan State University, University of Maryland – Baltimore, Loyola University Maryland, University of Baltimore, Baltimore City Community College, Coppin State University, Maryland Institute College of Art, Goucher College

Baltimore and surrounding areas offer residents many opportunities to enjoy the city’s harbor and the nearby Chesapeake Bay, perhaps contributing to a low incidence of depression. History buffs will enjoy Fort McHenry, the site where Francis Scott Key penned our National Anthem following a revolutionary war battle. The famed Inner Harbor area is home to one of the nation’s best aquariums, with 17,000 animals. Enjoy a meal in Little Italy before meeting friends at your favorite Fells Point nightspot. Residents here are also better than most at eating their fruits and vegetables (27.6% do it), and few are heavy drinkers. A short day trip will lead you to Annapolis, home of the U.S. Naval Academy and “America’s Sailing Capital.” It’s also just a few hours east to the ocean, or head west to find a pick-your-own farm experience.

42. Boise, Idaho

Boise State University, Apollo College, College of Western Idaho

Boise is no stranger to lists of healthy places to live. It has been highly acclaimed among the best cities for healthy living, recreation, raising a family, great downtowns, and even as a best city for asthmatics. Residents have a low incidence of heart disease (3.1%) and diabetes (9.7%). Cost of living is low, as is crime. Summer is warm, not too hot, and winters are mild, which allows 81.5% of residents to keep physically active. From downtown Boise, you can trek the 25-mile long Greenbelt path along the river or explore 130 miles of trail amid the foothills over the city. Nearby is Sun Valley, one the U.S.’s most popular ski resorts. Idaho boasts 3,100 miles of river and is the nation’s largest producer of potatoes, trout, lentils, and Austrian Winter Peas.

41. Richmond, Virginia

Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Richmond, J Sargeant Reynolds Community College, Virginia Union University, ITT Technical Institute, John Tyler Community College, Virginia State University, College of William and Mary, University of Mary Washington, Longwood University

Richmond is listed as one of Frommer’s Top Destinations for 2014, explaining that, “While you weren’t looking, Richmond got cool.” The only U.S. road on the National Register of Historic Places, Monument Avenue has been called “the most beautiful avenue in the world.” Civil War buffs will relish the history in the capital of the Confederacy and can easily visit the neighboring Petersburg National Battlefield or make a day trip to Manassas Battlefield. Richmond residents have a low incidence of depression and enjoy living in one of Livability.com’s Best 100 Places to Live. Richmond also scores well on heart disease (3.3%) and nutrition—27.3% get their recommended fruits and vegetables. It’s also a great place to enjoy the outdoors and will host the 2015 World Road Cycling Championship.

40. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona

Grand Canyon University, University of Phoenix, Apollo College, Everest College, University Technical Institute, Phoenix College, Paradise Valley Community College, Western International University, Brookline College, South Mountain Community College, GateWay Community College, The Art Institute of Phoenix, Mesa Community College, Pima Medical Institute, Scottsdale Community College, Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Arizona State University

Residents of the Phoenix area, called the Valley of the Sun, love to live where it is sunny 300+ days per year. Temperatures are comfortable from late fall to mid-spring, but the summers are certainly hot. In fact, Phoenix has the highest average temperature of any U.S. metro area. However, it also has the lightest traffic of all large U.S. cities, making it a fair trade off for many. Phoenix has a low rate of heavy drinkers (5%), low rate of smokers (6.9%), a 3.8% heart disease rate, and a rate of 36.3% of residents within normal weight range. The area’s many spas support good health, offering the benefits of native plants and herbs, American Indian wisdom, and treatment of the spirit as well as the body. Two hours away sits Sedona, a picturesque town known for its healing energies, and four hours away is the Grand Canyon, named by most as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

39. Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas

Southern Methodist University, Richland College, Dallas Baptist University, Mountain View College, University of Texas Southwest Medical Center, El Centro College, The Art Institute of Dallas, Everest College, The University of Texas at Dallas, Eastfield College, Brookhaven College, North Lake College, Collin County Community College, University of Dallas

Dallas has been working for many years to revitalize its riverfront area into a massive outdoor space for the enjoyment of its residents. Called the Trinity River Corridor Project, its completed form will cover ten times the acreage of New York’s Central Park. It will include wildlife habitat, trails, lakes, parks, athletic fields, a forest, wetlands, eight miles of boardwalks, and more. Many features are already completed. The project will support an already healthy area of Texas that enjoys low incidence of depression, smoking, and heavy drinking. Dallas is also home to White Rock Lake, with water sports and nine miles of trails. Stop at the nationally recognized Dallas Farmers Market on your way to see a rodeo in Mesquite, and don’t miss the State Fair in the fall, featuring a gigantic cowboy and the tallest Ferris wheel in the northern hemisphere.

38. Fargo, North Dakota

North Dakota State University, Concordia College at Moorhead, Minnesota State University, Minnesota State Community and Technical College, University of North Dakota

As the most populous city in North Dakota, Fargo has a population of a little more than 100,000. The town gained much exposure from the movie Fargo, and at the local visitors center you can even pose for a photo with “The Woodchipper” used in the movie. Real life Fargo residents take care of their limbs, evidenced by a low rate of diabetes (7.5%), heart disease (3.2%), and heavy drinking (3.2%). January high temperatures are around 15 degrees, when you might take up curling or snowmobiling. Daily highs reach the 80s in the summer, however, and 81.5% of area residents take advantage by staying physically active. Fargo Parks have many recreation opportunities, such as skate parks, trails, sledding hills, disc golf, archery, and batting cages. There’s something for everyone! Be sure to check out the Bagg Bonanza Farm nearby, a rare restored bonanza farm.

37. Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Oregon-Washington

Portland State University, Portland Community College, University of Portland, Lewis & Clark College, Apollo College, Oregon Health and Science University, Concordia University, Reed College, Warner Pacific College, The Art Institute of Portland, Clark College, Willamette University, Pacific University

Residents of the greater Portland area are movers and doers, with 84.5% physically active in some way and only 15.5% currently smoking. The downtown area is very walkable and parking is difficult, which encourages people to get out and walk. A very eco-conscious area, Portland also has a well-developed public transport system, making downtown even more accessible. If you prefer to arrive by bike, Portland boasts 300 miles of bike lanes, bike paths, and streets bikes can travel well. Portlanders are better than most about eating their veggies, perhaps in part thanks to the eight markets and 250 vendors that compose the Portland Farmers Markets. These popular markets even present kids cooking classes and chef demonstrations. Enjoy winter snow sports on Mount Hood and the weeks-long Portland Rose Festival in June.

36. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach, Florida

Florida International University, Miami Dade College, Barry University, Florida Career College, Miami International University of Art and Design, Nova Southeastern University, Broward College, Keiser University, The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, University of Miami, Florida Atlantic University, Saint Thomas University, Florida National College

The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area represents another MSA on our list that features both warm, sunny beaches and low rates of depression among its residents. Go figure! Southeast Floridians enjoy many activities that take advantage of its warm waters (only Honolulu’s are warmer in the U.S.), such as paddle boarding, parasailing, and snorkeling. Broward County has spent 20 years creating 75 artificial reefs to attract marine life, forming perfect dive spots alongside its many shipwrecks. Many also enjoy the 1.5 miles of Fort Lauderdale promenade for excellent rollerblading. After an afternoon of shopping on the famous Miracle Mile, you could opt for one of Miami’s many vegan, raw, or vegetarian food restaurants. Area residents are unlikely to be smokers (13.2%) or heavy drinkers (4.6%). After dinner burn some more calories dancing until dawn at your favorite club in South Beach.

35. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah

Weber State University, University of Utah, Westminster College, Western Governors University, Salt Lake Community College

Ogden was purchased by the LDS church in 1847. The railroad brought a different element to Ogden, and it was known for decades to be a rough town with unsavory characters. Today it has a gentler spirit, and residents make the most of what the land has to offer. Mountain bikers may know that Ogden’s Skyline Trail has been dubbed a “must ride” by many guides. Snow sport enthusiasts will remember Snowbasin resort, which hosted some events from the 2002 Winter Olympics. Climbers may have read that Ogden was ranked a top ten climbing town by Rock & Ice Magazine. Within 30 minutes from downtown, you could be relaxing at a Great Salt Lake beach, snowboarding, or fly fishing. It’s no wonder that 83.5% of area residents are physically active, that 38.3% are in normal weight ranges, and that only 2.8% suffer from heart disease. Movie buffs will love Ogden for its Peery Egyptian Theater, sometimes host to Sundance films.

34. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Connecticut

Trinity College, Capital Community College, University of Hartford, Central Connecticut State University, Manchester Community College, Wesleyan University, University of Connecticut, Springfield Technical Community College, Eastern Connecticut State University

Perhaps it’s not surprising that in Hartford, the insurance capital of the nation, area residents work hard to maintain good health. It has a low smoking rate of 15.3%, 37% of residents are within normal weight ranges, and it has one of the highest rates of fruit and vegetable consumption of all MSAs. Produce-lovers have multiple farmers markets to choose from, including the Old State House Farmers Market, established in 1643. To bring residents back to town to enjoy green space, Hartford has been revitalizing its riverfront area, including a newly developed Front Street District. Mortensen Riverfront Plaza is front and center on the river with its concert pavilion. Another popular spot is Bushnell Park, featuring a carousel, memorials, fountains, and pavilions. Take the free downtown DASH loop bus to get around key downtown stops. Literary fans will enjoy living near the museum homes for Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe, both in Hartford.

33. Trenton-Ewing, New Jersey

Rider University, The College of New Jersey, Mercer County Community College, Princeton University, Bucks County Community College, Burlington County College, Pennsylvania State University Abington, Arcadia University

Trenton and Ewing are in a region of New Jersey known for its charming and scenic villages, including beautiful Princeton. Trenton is in nearly the center of the state, where a short train ride can send you to Philadelphia or New York and a short car trip can send you to the Jersey Shore. History buffs will enjoy the proximity to Princeton Battlefield State Park, site of a key Revolutionary War battle, and Rockingham, the wartime headquarters of General Washington. Area residents are less likely than most to be smokers (15%) or heavy drinkers (3.7%), and they have a low incidence of heart disease (2.9%). Residents have a relatively high level of vegetable consumption, possibly thanks to the large number of nearby farms and farmers markets. Area residents may avail themselves of a website called Princeton Living Well with resources and tools (e.g., BMI calculations) to help Mercer County stay fit and well.

32. Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont

University of Vermont, Champlain College, SUNY College at Plattsburgh, Middlebury College, Norwich University, Dartmouth College, Adirondack Community College, SUNY College at Potsdam, Clarkson University

In Burlington, situated on Lake Champlain, outdoor activities are “a way of life” and 85.1% of residents are physically active. The Lake offers many water sports, and woodland and lake trails offer unbeatable running, hiking, and cycling. Many cyclists like the Island Line Trail, which follows the lake’s coastline and actually crosses the lake on a 3-mile marble pathway. Burlington area residents have one of the top vegetable consumption rates (29.3%), low incidence of heart disease (3.1%) and diabetes (8.3%), and a low smoking rate (14.8%). Need more convincing? Every year Burlington ranks high on a multitude of city lists. National Geographic Traveler calls it “The Perfect Small City.” Outside Magazine rated it a top ten city for outdoor recreation. The United Health Foundation ranked Vermont the #1 healthiest state four years in a row, and in 2012 the Institute for Economics and Peace named Vermont the second most peaceful place to live.

31. Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina

North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Wake Technical Community College, Shaw University, Meredith College, Saint Augustines College, North Carolina Central University, Duke University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Johnston Community College, Campbell University, Wayne Community College, Elon University

Raleigh-Cary area residents are happy people who enjoy a low incidence of depression. Supporting that, the University of British Columbia rated it the #4 Happiest Metropolitan area, and CNN Money ranked Raleigh #3 among Least Stressed Out Cities. Area residents also have healthy bodies, with only 3% suffering from heart disease and 9.2% suffering from diabetes. Women’s Heath also ranked Raleigh as the #1 healthiest city for women. The health conscious might dine at Irregardless Café, serving a vegetarian menu since 1975. When cooking at home, stop by the permanent indoor Raleigh Farmers Market, covering 30,000 square feet with produce and other items from local farms. Cary is home to the five-star Umstead Hotel and Spa, rated by Town & Country to be among the 14 Most Transformational Wellness Destinations Around the World. Once transformed, you might visit William B. Umstead State Park for hiking, biking, or lake canoeing.

30. Colorado Springs, Colorado

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak Community College, Colorado College, Colorado Technical University, United States Air Force Academy, Colorado State University – Pueblo, Pueblo Community College, Arapahoe Community College

Residents of Colorado Springs are lured into healthy physical activity by their striking surroundings. Pikes Peak looms to the west, inviting adventurous hikers and runners. The popular Garden of the Gods is the local favorite for hiking and for climbing the breathtaking sandstone formations, and the nearby Arkansas River is the most sought after for whitewater rafting. World-class skiing and snowboarding is just two hours away at Breckenridge or Monarch resorts. With so many alluring options, 83.4% of area residents are physically active, and the area ranks well on weight, with 42.3% of residents within normal weight ranges. Men’s Fitness ranked Colorado Springs the #2 Fittest City in America, and the American Lung Association ranked it the #7 Cleanest U.S. City. Need more inspiration to get fit? Take a tour of the Olympics Training Center.

29. Honolulu, Hawaii

University of Hawaii at Manoa, Hawaii Pacific University, Kapiolani Community College, Chaminade University of Honolulu, Honolulu Community College, Leeward Community College, Brigham Young University – Hawaii

The Honolulu metro area is home to one million people and has been ranked as having the worst U.S. traffic. It has crime and a high cost of living. Yet, Business Week calls it the #3 Best City to Live In, depression is almost the lowest of all MSAs, and Mercer Consulting rated it as having the 28th Best Quality of Life worldwide. Apparently the hassles of city life become muted when you’re surrounded by some of the world’s most beautiful scenery. High temperatures are 80-90 degrees all year, and lows are 65-75 degrees. Honolulu’s waters are the warmest in the nation at 77-82 degrees, an opportunities for watersports abound at Honolulu’s many beaches, including windsurfing, snorkeling, and outrigger canoeing. On land, residents can hike the Diamond Head or Punchbowl craters for spectacular views. The magic of island living translates to one of the lowest rates of heart disease (2.8%), a low smoking rate (14%), and a low obesity rate.

28. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California

University of California – Riverside, Riverside Community College, California Baptist University, La Sierra University, Loma Linda University, San Bernadino Valley College, Universal Technical Institute of California, University of Redlands, California State University – Redlands, Chaffey College, Crafton Hills College, California State University – San Bernadino, ITT Technical Institute, Everest College,

Riverside became the home of the California citrus industry in the 1870s. While it celebrates history through the 300-acre Citrus State Historical Park and the Fox Performing Arts Center (first theater to show Gone With the Wind), it has also undergone a $1.6 billion revitalization to make the city more walkable and commercial. A warm, dry climate makes the environment easy to enjoy and may contribute to the area’s low rate of depression. Ride your mountain bike in the Box Springs Mountain Reserve, or take a quick hike up popular Mount Rubidoux for great views. The Inland Empire area is serious about its farmers markets, and one of the most popular is the Riverside Certified Farmers’ Market. In addition to a wide variety of local produce, it sells locally bred seeds, tamales, local goat cheese, and much more. This helps 27% of area residents eat their recommended fruits and vegetables.

27. Newark-Union, New Jersey

Essex County College, Rutgers University – Newark, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Univerity of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Kean University, Seton Hall University, New Jersey City University, Saint Peter’s College, Hudson County Community College, Union County College, Montclair State University, Lincoln Technical Institute

When Conde Nast Traveler ranked Newark as the unfriendliest city in the world in 2013, many locals challenged this criticism. In fact, residents of Newark and surrounding counties have nearly the lowest rate of depression in the country and have much to celebrate about their towns. Eight miles from Manhattan, in the Olmsted-designed Branch Brook Park, 4,300 cherry trees bloom each spring. Residents can picnic in Cedar Brook Park, rent a paddleboat in Echo Lake Park, or book a rejuvenating spa visit in Westfield. Go canoeing in Cranford, skateboard at Jesse Allen Park, or find peace at The Shakespeare Garden. The area has a low rate of drinking (4.9%) and smoking (16%). Residents are more likely than most MSAs to eat their vegetables, thanks in part to the many farmers markets supported by the Jersey Fresh program for promotion and education. New Jersey is a top U.S. producer of cranberries, bell peppers, spinach, and more.

26. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, Community College of Philadelphia, Saint Joseph’s University, La Salle University, Philadelphia University, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson University, The University of the Arts

Philadelphia proudly exhibits its rich history through a multitude of attractions. Visit Independence National Historic Park, including Independence Hall, Liberty Bell Center, National Constitution Center, Carpenter’s Hall, and others, to learn about the city’s important role in the founding of our country and its brief time as the nation’s capital. Beyond museums, city residents enjoy many outdoor options to stay active. Enormous Fairmount Park has 9,200 acres of trails, hills, woodlands, and waterfront, and even offers rock climbing. Silver Lake Nature Center is another city park, with trails and lake kayaking. Some choose to take up rowing on the Schuylkill, one of the nation’s most prominent rowing locales. Such opportunities surely help maintain a low incidence of heart disease (3.7%) in the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphians also have a high vegetable consumption rate (27%). Farmers markets are available six days a week with many chemical-free produce options.

25. Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, Illinois

University of Illinois at Chicago, DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago, University of Chicago, Columbia College Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Harold Washington College, Wilbur Wright College, Chicago State University, Roosevelt University, Robert Morris University Illinois, Richard J Daley College, Kennedy King College, Harry S Truman College, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Malcom X College, Saint Xavier College, Olive Harvey College, North Central College, Benedictine University, College of DuPage, Wheaton College, Midwestern University, Aurora University, Lewis University, Northwestern University, Joliet Junior College, University of St. Francis

Forbes has ranked Chicago as the #3 Most Miserable City because of traffic, weather, and political corruption, yet its people enjoy a very low rate of depression and heart disease (3.4%). Perhaps the headaches caused by traffic and weather are well overshadowed by the sheer multitude of cultural, entertainment, and outdoor opportunities available in the Windy City. Chicago is highly cultured, home to more than 200 theaters and almost 200 art galleries. It hosts 36 annual parades! In 2004, the city transformed a dilapidated industrial area into the very popular Millennium Park, now 25 acres of pavilions, public art, and a Great Lawn for exercise and enjoyment. Chicago boasts 552 parks, 26 miles of lakefront, 15 miles of beaches, and 19 miles of lakefront bicycle paths. Urban adventurers can kayak between skyscrapers on the river that’s dyed green for Saint Patrick’s Day or walk the 4.2-mile riverwalk.

24. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston University, Northeastern University, University of Massachuetts – Boston, Suffolk University, Emerson College, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Berklee College of Music, Bunker Hill Community College, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Simmons College, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Emmanuel College

Boston has designed its outdoor space to get residents out and moving. Areas like Boston Common and Public Garden, the Esplanade, the Freedom Trail, Castle Island, and more helped earn Boston the title of #1 Best City for Walking by Prevention.com. Residents also flock to two of the country’s oldest marketplaces, Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. Farm to table eating is common among Boston restaurants, as great farms can be found just a half hour from the city. Healthy choices like these keep Boston’s obesity levels low, and the city has a low smoking rate (14.9%) and a low diabetes rate (9.5%). History buffs will love Boston for its revolutionary importance, from the Boston Massacre to the Boston Tea Party to the battlefields of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. Those looking to escape the city can consider a whale watching excursion or a visit to the Boston Harbor Islands.

23. Denver-Aurora, Colorado

Metropolitan State University of Denver, University of Colorado – Denver, University of Denver, Regis University, Community College of Denver, The Art Institute of Colorado, Johnson & Wales University, Lincoln College of Technology, Pima Medical Institute, Community College of Aurora

The Denver area enjoys 300 days of sunshine per year but is just 1.5 hours from top ski resorts like Vail, Beaver Creek, and Copper Mountain. Also a brief drive away is Rocky Mountain National Park, 400 square miles of lakes, waterfalls, hiking, and much more. But Denver residents don’t have to leave town to stay active. City Park offers 330 acres of fields, lakes, and the Denver Zoo. Top rated Cherry Creek Bike Path is a 40-mile paved trail from Denver into several suburbs, great for commuting or exercise. Denver also has a bike sharing program called Denver B-cycle, one of many reasons REI has named Denver “Cycle Town, USA.” All these options keep 82.9% of area residents physically active, with very low comparative obesity rates, and a very low rate of heart disease (2.8%). Residents eat well, too, thanks to restaurants’ well-established farm-to-table relationships and excellent gourmet food trucks. TravelNerd has even called Denver one of the Best Cities for Vegetarian Foodies.

22. Salt Lake City, Utah

University of Utah, Salt Lake City Community College, Westminster College, Latter-Day Saints Business College

CNN Money ranked Salt Lake City the Least Stressed City in the country. Perhaps it helps to wake each day surrounded by the picturesque Wasatch and Oquirrhs mountain ranges. It also helps to live within minutes of seven top ski resorts (14 are within an hour or so). The area slogan is The Greatest Snow on Earth ®. There are also plenty of warm weather recreation options as well, such as hiking, rock climbing, and mountain biking. Visit nearby Park City to see the home of the Sundance Film Festival. Residents can go swimming in Great Salt Lake and have fun testing their buoyancy in water 2-5 times saltier than the ocean. And speaking of weight, Salt Lake City enjoys a low comparative rate of obesity, with 39.7% of residents within normal ranges. They also have a low level of heart disease (2.4%), and low rates of smoking (12.8%) and drinking (4.5%). Salt Lake City is the home of the LDS church, though the city now has a majority of non-LDS residents.

21. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut

University of Bridgeport, Housatonic Community College, Porter and Chester Institute, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield University, University of New Haven, Norwalk Community College, Gateway Community College, Yale University, SUNY at Purchase College, Manhattanville College, SUNY Westchester Community College, Fairfield University, Iona College, The College of New Rochelle

Towns in southwestern Connecticut have been working hard to revitalize their downtown and waterfront areas to engage residents in city spaces. Bridgeport is currently undergoing its exciting transformation, though the ever-popular Harboryard and P.T. Barnum Museum are still fully accessible. Stamford has already completed many parts of Mill River Park, where it renewed industrial land to promote use of green space in the city. The park hosts outdoor exercise classes, playgrounds, walking/biking trails, gardens, pavilions, and more. Those looking for more exercise can visit the Connecticut location of Chelsea Piers, a giant athletic complex offering swimming, racquet sports, gymnastics, an ice rink, and court sports. The exercise helps to keep area residents healthy, with a low diabetes rate (8.9%) and a low smoking rate (13.2%). Southwestern Connecticut residents also have a high vegetable consumption rate, supported by farmers markets like Stamford’s French Market.

20. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota

University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, Walden University, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Augsburg College, The Art Institutes International Minnesota, Dunwoody College of Technology, North Central University, Saint Paul College, Concordia University – Saint Paul, Metropolitan State University, Hamline University, University of St. Thomas, St. Catherine University, Normandale Community College

In the Twin Cities area, 83.5% of residents manage to stay physically active year-round despite the cold and snowy winters, thanks to the thoughtful design of the city and its surroundings. Even in a Minneapolis winter, you can walk all around downtown using the Skyway, a second-floor system of enclosed walkways between buildings. Surrounding Minneapolis is a Chain of Lakes, making a 40-mile loop of connected paths. At least one path from each of the 22 lakes is plowed throughout the winter. City parks are top rated, and each city home sits within six blocks of a park. Additional biking trails exist from rails-to-trails conversions, helping Minneapolis win the name of “#5 Top Cycling City in the U.S.” by travelchannel.com. Residents’ active lifestyles help to keep them healthy with low rates of diabetes (9.3%) and heart disease (3.1%). In 2012, Minneapolis was even named the Fittest City in the U.S. by the American College of Sports Medicine.

19. Austin-Round Rock, Texas

The University of Texas at Austin, Austin Community College, Saint Edward’s University, Everest Institute, Texas Culinary Academy, Texas State University – San Marcos, Central Texas College, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Temple College

Residents of the Austin area gravitate toward two things to keep their minds and bodies healthy: music and the outdoors. Austin has a well-deserved reputation as a music town, where live music plays every single night of the year. During the day, you can find residents enjoying Town Lake in kayaks or on paddleboards, or on its 10 miles of shoreline trails. To cool down on hot summer days, try the naturally filled, 68-degree Barton Springs, a three-acre swimming pool. Bicycling Magazine places Austin in its top 20 most bike-friendly cities, as it has plenty of trails for recreational cyclists and the Ironman 70.3 Austin Triathlon for serious athletes. The effort pays off for area residents, who have a low rate of heart disease (2.6%) and diabetes (8.1%) – both of which have helped Austin be named top Fit City ranking by Shape Magazine. At the close of your busy day outdoors, join the spectators on the Congress Avenue bridge, home to 1.5 million bats. People gather at sunset to watch them take flight. Then go find some live music!

18. New York-Jersey City-White Plains, New York-New Jersey

New York University, Columbia University, CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY Hunter College, CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY Bernard M Baruch College, Touro College, CUNY City College, The New School, Pace University, Fashion Institute of Technology, Yeshiva University, CUNY Graduate School and University Center, Technical Career Institutes, Berkeley College, School of Visual Arts, Barnard College, New York Institute of Technology, Hudson County Community College, New Jersey City University, Saint Peter’s College, Stevens Institute of Technology, The College of Westchester

A big reason why New Yorkers (and those from commuting suburbs) stay fit is because they do lots and lots of walking. With 8.4 million people living in 305 square miles of land, many residents don’t own cars. On an average weekday, MTA subway ridership is about 5.5 million across 468 subway stations and bus ridership is more than 2 million. Just buying groceries might mean a walk of several blocks, and those living in smaller “walk up” buildings get in plenty of stairs in their daily routines. The city is home to many parks and outdoor spaces, including Central Park. Central Park is 800 acres of open space, trails, lake, ice rinks, zoo, fountains, sports fields, a Reservoir with a 1.58-mile track, and much more. This access to open space plus walking exercise keeps New York’s obesity levels relatively low. Depression levels are also low, as are levels of smoking (14.8%) and heavy drinking (4.5%).

17. Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, Massachusetts

Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lesley University, Cambridge College, Boston University, Bunker Hill Community College, Tufts University, Simmons College

As Cambridge is a sister city to Boston, its residents can enjoy Boston’s outdoor spaces, though it has many of its own. Most famous is Harvard Square, a popular commercial area that also includes the Cambridge Common open park area. Paved pathways along the Charles River allow for walking and biking, or stop to play at the Charles River Reservation or Magazine Beach. In the fall, watch the nation’s most famous rowing race, the Head of the Charles. 81.2% of area residents keep physically active, and a high 40.6% are within normal weight ranges, while only 13.7% are smokers. Cambridge is well known for its “brain fitness” as well, home to such universities as Harvard and MIT and increasingly settled by high-tech companies. The city has more than 20 independent bookstores and has vast multicultural diversity. This MSA also includes suburbs like Framingham and Saxonville, home to many historic sites and the 820-acre Callahan State Park.

16. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Washington

University of Washington – Seattle, Seattle University, Seattle Community College, Seattle Pacific University, The Art Institute of Seattle, Bellevue College, City University of Seattle, University of Washington – Bothel Campus, Everett Community College, Edmonds Community College, Shoreline Community College

In Seattle, Pikes Place Market is a favorite among tourists and locals alike. This permanent market downtown sells produce, seafood, and more. Known for its fish-tossing vendors, locals shop here for bargains and healthy food. Their vegetable consumption rates are among the very highest in the country (28.4%) and obesity rates are relatively low. Seattle area residents are also extremely active, with 84.5% participating in physical activity. The downtown area is highly walkable and bikeable, ranked as the #4 Bike Friendly City by Bicycling magazine and ranked the #5 U.S. city to travel car-free. Enjoy Olympic Sculpture Park, connected by trails to Myrtle Edwards Park, or walk the waterfront and ride the Seattle Great Wheel enclosed Ferris wheel ride for great views of the city. Out of the city, visit Bellevue’s 100 parks, Everett’s huge public marina, coastlines for water sports, and 1,600 acres of parks. And there’s no need to stay inside during the winter – head to the Cascade Mountains for excellent snow sports.

15. Nassau-Suffolk Counties (Long Island), New York

Long Island University – Brentwood, Dowling College, Farmingdale State College, Suffolk County Community College, Stony Brook University, Saint Joseph’s College – Suffolk Campus, SUNY College at Old Westbury, Nassau Community College

Long Island is one of the most populous islands in the world, housing more people than Ireland and Jamaica and home to nearly 40% of New York State’s population. While Brooklyn and Queens may be more well-known, the suburban areas of Nassau and Suffolk have plenty to offer the health-conscious. With some of the lowest rates of depression and heavy drinking in the country, residents of this MSA spend much of their time soaking up the area’s arts, history, culture, and outdoor activities. A plethora of white sandy beaches are just a short distance away, and seven state parks and one county park provide plenty of running, hiking, and biking space. Spend your weekends horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing, surfing, scuba diving, boating, or whale watching, or make the short trip to Manhattan for access to an overwhelming number of art galleries, museums, and entertainment options.

14. Logan, Utah

Utah State University

In 2005 and 2007, Morgan Quinto Press named Logan the safest metropolitan area in the United States, but that’s not the only recognition it’s received. CNN has called it one of the “Best Places to Retire Young” while The Monday Report labeled it the most walkable city in Utah. Residents experience a beautiful variation of all four seasons, with average temperatures from about 13 degrees to almost 90. Physically fit residents take advantage of opportunities to get outside all year round – an easy task thanks to the nearby Bear River Mountains, Lake Bonneville, and Logan Canyon. In fact, 86.7% of Loganites are physically active, and almost 50% have a normal body weight – one of the highest proportions in the nation. The area also has a very low incidence of heart disease, with only 2.1% affected.

13. Fort Collins-Loveland, Colorado

Colorado State University, Aims Community College, University of Northern Colorado, Laramie County Community College

Fort Collins is a true college city, with students from Colorado State making up about 1/5 of the city’s population. A picturesque town, the local area helped inspire the design for “Main Street, U.S.A.” in the Walt Disney Parks. Frequently listed as one of the best places to live by Money magazine, the locals tend to agree with this assessment. The nearby Rocky Mountains provide plenty of recreational opportunities, as do the area’s 50+ parks, 280+ miles of trails, four recreation centers, and three public golf courses. Residents can spend time fly fishing, standup paddleboarding and whitewater rafting on the Cache La Poudre River, or horseback riding around the Red Feather Lakes and the Poudre Canyon. End the day with a spectacular hot air ballon ride that will give you uncomparable views of the region.

12. Sacramento, California

California State Colorado – Sacramento, American River College, Sacramento City College, Cosumnes River College, University Technical Institute of Northern California, Western Career College – Sacramento

Sacramento is one of the least depressed cities in the entire nation, with only 10.6% of people suffering from low moods. It must be because of all of that vitamin D – the sun shines down on the region more than 230 days out of the year. Residents take advantage of the opportunity to be outside and frequently go wine tasting, attend sporting events, or travel just a little over an hour for spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. As a result, locals have high rates of physical exercise (83.6%) and a relatively low rate of heart disease, while less than 10% are smokers. Sacramento is also the farm-to-fork capital of the country, with fresh seasonal food available year round at restaurants that fit every budget.

11. Atlanta, Georgia

Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University, Clark Atlanta University, The Art Institute of Atlanta, Morehouse College, Atlanta Technical College, Shorter College, Spelman College, Argosy University – Atlanta, Atlanta Metropolitan College

Atlanta is one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the United States and has a rich history, earning a progressive reputation during the Civil Rights Movement as a city “too busy to hate.” The region also has a huge economy punctuated by diverse demographics, culture, and politics, as well as the busiest airport in the world. Atlanta has relatively low rates of depression and heavy drinking, as well as the second highest consumption of fruits and vegetables in the U.S. The Official Atlanta Tourism Guide easily lists “50 Fun Things to Do,” which include biking the Atlanta Beltline, meandering through the 30 acres of lush green space at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and splashing around at the Fountain of Rings in Centennial Olympic Park.

10. Boulder, Colorado

University of Colorado at Boulder, Front Range Community College, Colorado School of Mines, Red Rocks Community College

Boulder, Colorado is a top attraction for some of the most avid cyclists, runners, and rock climbers in the world. It’s easy to see why Outside magazine rated the area the “#1 Sports Town in America.” The close-knit community is characterized by residents who fully embrace active living (it’s the #1 region in the nation for physical activity) and are committed to conserving natural resources. The more than 300 days of sunshine a year provide plenty of opportunities for visits to the scenic Rocky Mountains, Boulder Creek, and Eldorado Canyon. Boulder is also ranked #1 for body weight, with more than 50% of residents weighing within a normal range, #1 (less than 5%) for diabetes, and near the top for low levels of smoking and heart disease.

9. San Francisco, California

San Francisco State University, Academy of Art University, University of San Francisco, City College of San Francisco, University of California – San Francisco, University of California Hastings College of Law, Golden Gate University – San Francisco, California Institute of Integral Studies

San Francisco, nicknamed “The City by the Bay,” has enjoyed significant growth ever since its historic beginnings during the 1849 California Gold Rush. The city was also a seat of the hippie counterculture in the 1960s and continues to profess support for the Gay Rights Movement, giving it a reputation for liberal activism. Tourists and residents alike enjoy cool summers, rolling hills, and a diverse mix of architecture, as well as landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Alcatraz Island, and the Chinatown District. The region does very well on measures of normal body weight (48.1%), heart disease (only 2.3%), and depression (only 10.9%). Residents enjoy an overwhelming buffet of arts, culture, and nightlife venues, as well as plenty of outdoor activities thanks to its proximity to the coastline.

8. San Diego, California

San Diego State University, University of San Diego, San Diego Mesa College, San Diego City College, Point Loma Nazarene University, Alliant International University, San Diego Miramar College, The Art Institute of California – San Diego

As one of the southernmost cities in California, San Diego is well known for its ideal location between Los Angeles and the border of Mexico. Locals enjoy mild weather year round, a natural deep-water harbor, and an extensive array of beaches. The city is home to a fantastic choice of attractions, including the San Diego Zoo, Legoland, SeaWorld, Birch Aquarium, Balboa Park, and the Living Coast Discover Center. It’s nearly impossible to get bored in a region that also offers plenty of parks and gardens, spas, and recreation options that include kayaking, boating, golfing, scuba diving, surfing, hiking, and biking. Nearly 83% of residents have gladly embraced an active lifestyle, while only 10.6% of locals smoke.

7. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, District of Columbia-Virginia

George Washington University, Georgetown University, American University, Howard University, Strayer University, Catholic University of America, University of the District of Columbia, Gallaudet University, Trinity Washington University, Marymount University, The Art Institute of Washington, George Mason University, Northern Virginia Community College

The capital of the United States, Washington, D.C. is one of the most well known cities in the entire world. People travel from far and wide to stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue for a look at the White House, check out all the museums on the National Mall, and stroll around the Tidal Basin for a look at several monuments and the beautiful Cherry Blossoms. D.C. and the surrounding metropolitan areas are also known for their power-driven mentality, as many people work long hours and clamor to move up the ladder on the Hill. Despite the city’s overwhelming ambition and terrible traffic, the region has one of the lowest rates of depression in the country (only 13.2%) and people consume more fruits and veggies than anywhere else in the country. A quick tour of the city will reveal a multitude of joggers, while other outdoor lovers go kayaking on the Potomac River, make the drive out to Shenandoah to go camping, or go ice skating on one of the many nearby rinks during the winter.

6. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, California

University of California – Los Angeles, University of Southern California, California State University – Los Angeles, Abram Friedman Occupational Center, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles City College, The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Los Angeles Trade Technical College, ICDC College, California State University – Long Beach, Long Beach City College, Wyotech – Long Beach, Cerritos College, TUI University, California State University – Dominguez Hills, Los Angeles Harbor College, Cypress College, Golden West College, Biola University, Glendale Community College, Pasadena City College

Los Angeles is a glamorous area that attracts people for its many beaches, plethora of attractions, and large concentration of celebrity residents. In addition to being the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” the region is also home to six theme parks – including Disneyland, Six Flags, and Universal Studios Hollywood – and thirteen incredible beaches. Downtown features many walkable areas that entice shopaholics who want to explore the many high fashion and boutique shops. The region has the third lowest rate of depression (only 10.6%), negligible heart disease (2.5%), and a higher than average proportion of people within a normal BMI range (38.8%). The area’s enviable climate and geography allow plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, golfing, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, and other water sports.

5. Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, California

Laney College, California College of the Arts, Mills College, Merritt College, Samuel Merritt University, University of California – Berkeley, Saint Mary’s College of California, Academy of Art University, Chabot College, California State University – East Bay, Ohlone College

Oakland’s territory is ideal for nature lovers, as it is concentrated with rich flatland soil, redwood timber, and tons of green space. The temperate climate, which ranges from mid-40’s in January to nearly 75 degrees in the summer, lead the region to be named the #1 Climate in America by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This MSA comes in near the top of the list for low rates of heart disease (2.2%), low rates of depression (11.2%), and high levels of physical activity and fruit/vegetable consumption (83.8% and 27.7%, respectively). These statistics come as no surprise, as miles of waterfront access, over 100,000 acres of parks, and a redwood forest within minutes of downtown encourage locals to get out of the house and get moving. It’s no wonder the region has coined the hashtag, #oaklandandiloveit.

4. Silver Spring-Frederick-Rockville, Maryland

University of Maryland – College Park, University of Maryland – University College, Frederick Community College, Hood College, Montgomery College

All located just outside D.C., the cities of Silver Spring, Frederick, and Rockville are home to plenty of college students. The two University of Maryland campuses are responsible for most of them, as together they claim nearly 80,000 students. Residents of the area have access to all the culture, arts, entertainment, and historic sites of the nation’s capital, but also enjoy a vibrant downtown scene closer to home. The League of American Bicyclists recently recognized Rockville as a “Bicycle Friendly Community,” while the myriad of parks provide opportunities for picnicking and hiking. Great Falls Park is perhaps the most popular, and residents often enjoy the scenic views of rushing waters and towering waterfalls. Locals do very well on measures of weight, depression, and fruit and vegetable consumption.

3. Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, California

American Career College, Everest College – Anaheim, California State University – Fullerton, Fullerton College, Chapman University, Santa Ana College, Santiago Canyon College, University of California – Irvine, Irvine Valley College, Brandman University, Concordia University, Orange Coast College

Although Anaheim, Santa Ana, and Irvine are all located in close proximity to Los Angeles, the area is populous enough that these three cities deserve their own MSA. At various times both CNN and Businessweek have ranked Irvine as one of the best places to live in the United States, while the FBI reported that the region has a very low crime rate for a population over 100,000. The area is also known for very high-income residents and was named the “Best Run City in the U.S.” by 24/7 Wall Street. The region has the lowest rate of depression of any U.S. MSA (9.2%), and also has a very low rate of smokers (10%) and a high level of physical activity (84.4%). Orange County claims 42 miles of beach coast line, where visitors can lounge in the sun, take up a water sport, or rollerblade along the boardwalks.

2. Provo-Orem, Utah

Brigham Young University, Utah Valley University

Provo, Utah has received plenty of attention as one of the best places to live in America. Where to Retire magazine listed it as an “enticing city for new careers,” Forbes named it one of the best places to raise a family, and National Geographic added it to its list of “where to live and play” cultural hubs. As the seat of Brigham Young University as well as the largest missionary training center for the LDS church, many residents are religious – one of the reasons it has the lowest incidence of heavy drinking of any U.S. city. Active residents can visit the Peaks Ice Arena, which was home to the 2002 Winter Olympics; travel north to Salt Lake, or hike and rock climb up the peaks of the Wasatch Range.

1. San Jose-Santa Clara, California

San Jose State University, San Jose City College, Evergreen Valley College, Western Career College – San Jose, Santa Clara University, West Valley College, Mission College, De Anza College, Foothill College, Stanford University

As the overall healthiest MSA on this list, the combined area of San Jose and Santa Clara score well in almost every category. The region has the 2nd highest percentage of people in a normal body weight range (49.8%), a high level of physical activity (83.6%), and a very low rate of depression (11.3%). Residents also love their fruits and veggies, no doubt due, at least in part, to the wealth of healthy eating establishments in the area. The area also provides locals with more than a dozen nearby parks, gardens, and green spaces, some of which feature water attractions and outdoor concerts. There are also more than 50 miles of trails in San Jose alone, making the region an ideal home for bicyclists and runners.

About the Author:

Iris Stone got her start in the industry when she began working as a freelance writer and researcher in 2011. Her freelance business soon took off and she now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Despite the time it takes to run a business she still does much of the writing herself, and her work has included a variety of content related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and graduates’ careers. Check out her Google+ Profile .


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