Every year, there are at least a handful of lists pointing out the “fattest” and “fittest” places in the country.Problem is that drawing a line between fat and skinny isn’t going to do anyone much good—especially if a healthier lifestyle is what they’re after.
Instead, real estate tracker Trulia decided to dig deeper, crunching the numbers for 100 of the largest U.S. metro areas to find out exactly which places are best suited for people looking to lose weight.
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“Before we looked at the data, people in the office did a guessing game of which places would end up on the list,” Trulia Chief Economist Jed Kolko told BI. “A lot of people expected Miami, San Diego … [but] it turned out these aren’t necessarily the places that offer the best tools for losing weight.”
Kolko and his team looked at five factors* to rank the cities: healthy food options; access to outdoor activities; weight loss centres; gyms; and the ability for consumers to bike or walk to work.
When all was said and calculated, one clear trend emerged: These places don’t come cheap. In fact, six of the top 10 cities charge more than $200 per square foot for living space.
“These places tend to have spending power to support gyms, fitness centres, outdoor activities,” Kolko explained. “And these are all types of businesses that have an easier time surviving in more affluent areas because people have more spending power.”
Food options: ratio of “slow food” establishments (supermarkets, specialty food markets, and full-service restaurants) divided by “fast food” establishments (convenience stores and fast-food restaurants)
Outdoors activities: sporting-goods stores per 1,000 households
Bike/Walk commuting: percentage of workers who commute by walking or biking.
Gyms: number of gyms, health clubs, and fitness centres per 1,000 households.
Weight loss programs: weight-loss and diet centres per 1,000 households
Seattle has more going for it than the Space Needle, the music scene, and great coffee.
According to Trulia's data, the city ranked the ninth best place for commuters looking to bike or walk to work, thanks to a tightly condensed urban centre. There's still room to stretch your legs, though.
The city beat out 85 others to land in 15th place for the number of gyms per person, and 11th in outdoor activities.
Median price per square foot: $181
Peabody, Mass. isn't exactly the greatest place to find healthy food options (it ranked 84 out of 100 in that category), but at least it has plenty of options to work off the calories.
The city came in sixth in the number of gyms on hand, and 12th overall for weight loss centres.
Median price per square foot: $189
Despite its affinity for the Cheese Whiz and steak combo, Philadelphia is among the top 10 best places to bike or walk to work, according to Trulia.
And it's the No. 1 city for weight loss centres, if you're looking for a more regimented health plan.
The only drawback? It's not exactly the greatest for the outdoorsy types, ranking 76 out of 100 overall.
Median price per square foot: $135
With just about 166,000 inhabitants, Middlesex isn't as large as others on this list, but it's an ideal place for an active lifestyle.
The Massachusetts town ranked fifth overall for walkers and cyclists, and nabbed the second place spot for gym availability.
Median price per square foot: $217
It makes sense that the hometown of the largest marathon in the world would make the list, but New York City isn't just for runners.
Busy traffic aside, the city beat out all others as the best place to walk or bike to work. That's likely due to a targeted expansion of bike lanes and pedestrian walkways in recent years, one of the cornerstones of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's last term in office.
The city is also third for healthy food options, though the concrete jungle is no place for people craving wide open spaces----it ranked 99 out of 100 for outdoors activities.
Median price per square foot: $275
Perhaps its proximity to Lake Michigan makes Lake County-Kenosha County, Illinois one of the greatest metro areas for outdoorsy types----and it's the cheapest place for housing on this list.
The area ranks an impressive fourth overall in recreational activities, and given the fact that it came in fifth place for gyms per capita, gym rats have plenty of places to sweat it out during colder months.
It ranked 11th for weight loss centre access.
Median price per square foot: $106
Boston may be the second runner's dream city on this list, but it's just as great for people looking to work out indoors.
The city ranked third for gym access and getting to work by foot or bike.
The food options leave much to be desired (it ranked 63rd out of 100), however, and it fell in the middle of the pack for outdoor activities.
Median price per square foot: $219
Few people think of New York when they imagine sand and surf, but it's the burgeoning beach scene in Long Island, N.Y. that earned it a spot near the top of this list.
The city ranked third overall for outdoor activities, and fourth for weight loss centres and gyms, respectively.
Unfortunately, it's not the best place to work if you're considering ditching your car. It came in 63rd overall for walking and biking.
Median price per square foot: $216
For what it lacks in bike and pedestrian lanes, Fairfield, Conn. makes up for in sun and sand.
Thanks to its coveted location along on the Long Island Sound coastline, it's a hotspot for beach-goers and boaters, and nearby Lake Mohegan is a popular place for hikers.
The city is also the No. 1 area for gyms and came in 20th overall for weight loss centres.
Median price per square foot: $221
If you're looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle, there's no better setup than San Francisco, according to Trulia's findings.
Not only is it the No. 1 destination for healthy food options, but its bike- and pedestrian-friendly streets make it a dream commute for people who are sick of burning fuel in traffic.
Despite an average number of weight loss centres (it ranked 44th out of 100), the city offers enough outdoors access and gyms to give anyone an incentive to keep in shape.
Just be prepared to pay more for those conveniences. It has by far the priciest real estate market on this list.
Median price per square foot: $459