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Big Cities Have Happier, Healthier People

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Large cities have happier, healthier residents compared to small communities, a new survey says, largely because the former have more sidewalks, parks, and excellent public transport systems.

While the top five cities listed in the report from Gallup and Healthways may not be immediately associated with healthy living, they scored high on significant health components, NBC News reports. These cities were Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.

Gallup served as the polling group, and Healthways was the consulting firm. In a statement, the researchers said,

Residents in these top five communities have, on average, significantly lower rates of smoking, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression compared with those in the five lowest-ranked active living communities.

The five cities at the bottom of the list were Tulsa, Durham in North Carolina, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City and Fort Wayne. The four essential items the group identified were easy biking, walkability, parks and public transit. The organizations surveyed 149,938 people in 48 major cities across the nation.

Both organizations have worked in partnership for years to determine and measure the characteristics that help people add more healthy habits in their daily lives. They used previous research that proved how exercise, healthy eating, accessibility of green spaces and lowered stress translated to lower risks for diseases, thus leading to longer lives.

The federal government, along with various health groups, have been hard at work in trying to get Americans off their sofas and out of their cars, helping them eat healthier and become more active.

The big cities Gallup and Healthways identified have had these features as they grew over the decades, but smaller cities can easily do the same.

Albert Lea in Minnesota, for example, put plenty of effort into boosting its well-being score. It put up over 10 miles of bike lanes and sidewalks, making streets more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly, the report noted. The city also put stricter regulations on tobacco use, helped restaurants add outdoor dining areas, and encouraged local institutions to provide more nutritious food choices. These steps resulted in a drop in smoking rates, improved health among residents and an overall boost in community pride.

The report tallies with findings by other research groups. The American College of Sports Medicine, for example, has consistently ranked Washington, D.C. as one of the fittest cities, along with Minneapolis. Indianapolis or Memphis is usually last on the list.

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