From Our 2010 Archives

Colorado, California Cities Dominate Slimmest Cities List

Healthy Habits Abound in Top 10 Least Obese Cities

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

March 5, 2010 -- Finally, a top 10 obese list American cities can be proud to be a part of.

A new ranking of America's least obese cities shows that healthy habits make for thinner residents in several Colorado and California cities, which dominate the top 10. Obesity rates in the top 10 least obese cities are an average of 15% lower than rates found in the nation's top 10 obese metropolitan areas and much lower than the national average of 26.5%.

Here are the top 10 least obese metro areas based on their percentage of obese residents.

  1. Fort Collins/Loveland, Colo. (16%)
  2. Boulder, Colo. (16.6%)
  3. Barnstable, Mass. (16.9%)
  4. Colorado Springs, Colo. (17.2%)
  5. San Luis Obispo/Paso Robles, Calif. (17.6%)
  6. Reno/Sparks, N.V. (17.7%)
  7. Santa Cruz/Watsonville, Calif. (17.9%)
  8. San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, Calif. (19%)
  9. San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont, Calif. (19.2%)
  10. Denver/Aurora, Colo.* (19.3%) and Bridgeport/Stamford/Norwalk, Conn.* (19.3)

*Tied

The list is based on a nationwide Gallup poll conducted in 187 metro areas in 2009. Researchers calculated the participants' body mass index (BMI) using their self-reported height and weight. A BMI of 30 or above is considered obese.

Healthy Habits the Norm in Skinny Cities

What's the secret to a skinny city? Healthy eating and exercise habits. The survey showed that nine out of the 10 least obese cities rank in the top third of the Gallup-Healthways Healthy Behavior Index. The index measures exercise, eating, and smoking habits.

Researchers found that most residents of the slimmest cities said they ate healthy "yesterday," frequently eat fruits and vegetables, and exercise regularly.

In fact, half or more of the residents in all of the least obese cities report exercising for at least 30 minutes three or more days a week. That's in sharp contrast to the nation's 10 most obese cities, where in all but one less than half of the residents report exercising that much.

Smoking rates were also lower than the national average in all of the least obese metropolitan areas.

Access Builds Healthier Cities

Although individual habits play a large role in keeping obesity rates low, the survey shows community conditions also play a part. Researchers found that residents in nearly all of the nation's least obese cities report above-average access to affordable fruits and vegetables, having a safe place to exercise, having enough money to buy food, and having health insurance.

Those conditions also foster healthier cities. All of the least obese cities have diabetes levels lower than the national average of 11% and heart attack rates below the national average of 4.6%.

Here's a snapshot of how the least obese cities fared in terms of physical health.

% Diabetes

% High Blood Pressure

% High Cholesterol

% Heart Attack

National Average

11

30.6

27.5

4.6

Boulder, CO

5.0

20.1

25.8

3.1

San Jose/

Sunnyvale/

Santa Clara, CA

8.3

24.7

24.4

3.3

Bridgeport/

Stamford/

Norwalk, CT

9.3

29.7

28.4

3.4

Reno/Sparks, NV

8.1

25.6

25.1

3.7

San Francisco/Oakland/

Freemont, CA

8.3

27.7

24.8

2.8

Santa Cruz/

Watsonville, CA

8.5

25.5

23.4

2.2

Fort Collins/

Loveland, CO

7.0

22.8

19.7

2.3

Barnstable, MA

7.1

38.1

28.9

4.4

Denver/Aurora, CO

7.5

26.5

23.7

3.0

Colorado Springs, CO

6.5

22.9

21.7

3.4

San Luis Obispo/

Paso Robles, CA

8.9

31.4

25.1

3.9

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being report is based on telephone interviews with more than 353,000 adults 18 and over between Jan. 2, 2009, and Dec. 29, 2009. It has a margin of sampling error of 0.2 percentage points.

SOURCES: Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

News release, Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

WebMD Medical News: "America's Most Obese Metropolitan Areas."

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