Want to have a healthier lifestyle? Where you live can be a major factor. Getting and staying healthy is so much easier if where you live has an abundance of opportunities to exercise and get fresh air, as well as access to healthy eats.
Using information collected by Gallup on obesity rates, exercise, smoking, and other metrics across the United States between 2012 and 2013, along with some additional health-related factors, we’ve identified 10 of the healthiest small towns (300,000 residents or less) in the United States. These towns have community programs or events aimed at promoting good health, low obesity and smoking rates, access to fresh local produce or meats, as well as plentiful outdoor activities.
Healthy stat: Only 14.4 percent of residents are smokers
Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia, which helps keep it an active and lively community. The town boasts a low obesity rate, high exercise rate, and a reputation for eating good amounts of fresh produce. This historic town is positioned at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are home to Shenandoah National Park, where there are countless trails for people of all ages to hike and explore. To continue healthy activities during the workweek, the town hosts an annual bike to work week.
For those that love the water, Charlottesville has not one but two lakes nearby, perfect for fishing, swimming, or hiking around. Healthy eating is important in Charlottesville as well. Along with a plethora of health food stores and organic groceries, you’ll find plenty of fresh produce, grass-fed meats, and more from local vendors at the City Market.
Healthy stat: 65 percent of people eat produce regularly
Billings is the town for you if you want plenty of reasons to get out and get active. One of the biggest reasons is Yellowstone National Park, which has endless possibilities for outdoor activity. As if Yellowstone wasn’t enough, Billings is also home to the Rimrocks, Swords Park, Pictograph Cave State Park, and the Yellowstone River.
When it comes to healthy eating, Yellowstone Valley Famers Market give you access to local produce and plants each week throughout the summer and fall.
Healthy stat: Scores 70.4 for “overall well-being”
Paso Robles sits just north of San Luis Obispo, between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and is blessed with the beautiful weather that California is famous for. Plentiful sunshine makes it easy to get out and participate in lots of outdoor activities, from ballooning to ranching.
Healthy stat: Only 10.7 percent of residents are still uninsured
Neighboring towns Bremerton and Silverdale sit on the shores of Puget Sound and are an hour-long ferry ride to Seattle. The area is littered with green spaces, full of forests and trails worth exploring, and a bevy of both large and small parks.
However, summer is when the outdoor activities really get going, with water sporting events as well as land-based mountain biking and BMX events throughout the season. Water trails offer recreational kayaking, scuba diving, and other water activities.
Healthy stat: Only 14.1 percent of residents are smokers
The neighboring cities of Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland are more commonly known as the Tri-Cities. Together, they’re home to three different rivers, the Columbia, Snake, and Yakima rivers, that are excellent for fishing, boating, and other water sports. They also boast 10 different golf courses for players of all levels, and are home to the Sacajawea State Park.
With a reported 300 days of sunshine, it is easy to get out and enjoy all the outdoor activities the Tri-cities have to offer. The nearby Sacagawea Heritage Trail is 23 miles of country perfect for hiking and biking, and follows the Columbia River for beautiful scenery as you get some exercise. The area is home to many other trails, like one that follows the footsteps of famed explorers Lewis and Clark, as well as parks.
Healthy stat: Scores 69.3 for “overall well-being”
Located on the banks of the Big Sioux River, Sioux Falls boasts 80 parks, an aquatic center, and over 28 miles of paved hike and bike trails. Needless to say, its facilities and surroundings practically guarantee an excellent quality of life. Its park system includes Falls Park, 123 acres of park right in the middle of the city! It offers excellent opportunities to explore both nature and history.
You will also find a large concentration of museums and historical sites to visit, as well as a ton of healthful restaurants, like Parker’s Bistro, which uses only organic ingredients.
Healthy stat: Only 14.4 percent of residents are smokers
The Grand Haven area is a great place to live if you enjoy a variety of outdoor activities. During the warmer months, their extensive trail systems can be used for hiking and biking, including a 20-mile bike trail that runs from Grand Haven State Park to Holland State Park. In the winter months, switch your hiking boots for cross-country skis on most trails and don’t forget the hidden surprise of the Mulligan’s Hollow Ski Bowl and its eight downhill runs for skiing and snowboarding.
The year-round activity doesn’t stop on land. The area runs the shore of Lake Michigan and provides plenty of water sports and walks along the boardwalk.
Healthy stat: Only 6.6 percent of people are uninsured
South Burlington is perhaps best known as the home of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but that fact belies the healthy, active lifestyles of its residents! Sitting between the shores of Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains, there are loads of options when it comes to outdoor activities. Between hiking, biking, sailing, and other water sports, it would be hard to not stay active in this environment.
Overlook Park features biking and hiking paths aplenty, with stunning views of the lake. Red Rocks Park, which is lakeside, also has its fair share of trails, most of which are short and family-friendly.
Healthy stat: Scores 69.5 for “overall well-being”
Located on Cape Cod, Barnstable actually consists of seven small villages. Beaches here range from small to very large, and there’s something for everyone when it comes to beach and water activities: sailing, fishing, kayaking, or just walking along the beach! Barnstable is also home to the Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary, which boasts otters and bird watching, plus beautiful trails, sandy dunes, and tidal flats to explore.
Of course, being so close to the water means plentiful seafood, so load up on those omega-3s! There are many restaurants to choose from in the villages of Barnstable and most are in walkable distance from the charming town squares.
Healthy stat: Score of 70 for “overall well-being”
Since it is on the shores of Bellingham Bay and at the foot of Mount Baker, it is hard to not be active in Bellingham. There’s hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, kayaking, and more to enjoy, all against a backdrop of spectacular natural scenery and wildlife.
Every year Bellingham hosts the Ski to Sea, a race that covers 93.5 miles and seven different sports: downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, running, canoeing, biking, cyclocross biking, and kayaking.