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30 Best Cities for Staying Healthy

These are the places where the 50+ make strong health and lifestyle connections

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    Get Out and About

    We can’t stop the hands of time, but we can start dealing ourselves a healthier hand. That's just what the healthy cities profiled here can help you accomplish: They are the metro locales that score best on such measures as percentage of residents who engage in healthy lifestyles, or number of doctors and hospitals per inhabitant. Click through our slideshow to learn which large cities (500,000 population or more) made our top 10. We didn’t stop there, of course; below you’ll find separate Top 10 lists for medium and small cities as well. All 30 of our “Best Cities for Staying Healthy” were selected by applying AARP’s new Livability Index, an online tool that helps local communities better serve the nation’s aging population.

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    San Francisco

    The city’s innovative Sunday Streets program closes certain roads to car traffic and offers bike “rentals” for free. It also features origami fishing and games of “sloth chase” — a form of “lava tag” designed to get people “of average physical ability [to] create new and challenging ways to move.”

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    San Jose, Calif.

    “The healthiest city dwellers in America live in San Jose,” the Sperling’s Best Places website confidently proclaims. One reason why: The city’s new food rules make it easy to start a community garden or urban farm, open a certified farmers market or sell homegrown produce to local businesses — even to your next-door neighbors.

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    Seattle

    The Emerald City topped the list of  “America’s Best Cities for a Healthy Retirement” when the rankings were announced in August. Indeed, Seattle sparkles with recreation options, from the wild beauty of Olympic National Park three hours west of the city to the tamer serenity of Discovery Park near downtown.

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  • John Kieffer

    Denver

    In addition to the city’s Silver Sneakers fitness program, held in local parks for older adults, there’s the new Denver Moves initiative. It is connecting off- and on-street bike routes to create a network of safe, comfortable corridors in all parts of the metropolis. 

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    San Diego

    It’s difficult to fabricate excuses not to exercise when the weatherperson predicts “72 and sunny” every day. The fact that only 13.7 percent of residents smoke regularly may help explain why San Diego scored a high 72 for healthy behaviors on AARP’s most recent Livability Index.

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    Portland, Ore.

    Boasting numerous public gardens, 150 miles of bike trails and more than 200 parks, Portland — where 30 percent of residents are over 50 — has prioritized pedestrian and bike safety since 1971. That’s the year the city passed a law requiring all new streets to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.

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    Albuquerque, N.M.

    A mile-high mountain landscape and 310 days of sunshine a year. It’s no wonder Mayor Richard Berry felt inspired to launch the Step It Up! Albuquerque program, which distributes free pedometers to registered walkers from 11 sites citywide, including five senior centers. So far, 6,065 residents have accepted his challenge and logged nearly 275 million steps.

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    Charlotte, N.C.

    After the city’s LYNX Blue Line opened in 2007, the 15-station, 9.6-mile light-rail system brought unexpected health benefits: Riders reduced their body mass index (BMI) by an average of 1.18 kg/m2 over 12 to 18 months — equivalent to a loss of 6.45 pounds for a person who is 5 feet 5 inches tall. Light-rail riders are also 81 percent less likely to become obese over time.

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    Los Angeles

    The city that originated the Southern California lifestyle — sun, sand, surf — still boasts a balmy climate, with little rainfall from April through October and daily temperature variations of only 15 degrees in spring and summer and 20 in fall and winter. Despite the city’s black eye for smog, L.A. has reduced some pollutants by 50 percent over the last 20 years.

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    Boston

    Urban sprawl had yet to be invented when Boston was founded in 1630. The city’s resulting small scale makes it eminently walkable today — and good for your health. Only 18.7 percent of residents smoke regularly — that’s below the U.S. median of 20.3 percent — and 99.8 percent of locals have access to exercise opportunities.

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More Healthy Cities

The lists that follow are based on the AARP Livability Index, a new online tool designed to help communities better serve the nation’s aging population.

Medium Population (100K-500K)    

Arlington, Va.

Sunnyvale, Calif.

Costa Mesa, Calif.

Irvine, Calif.

Santa Maria, Calif.

Fullerton, Calif.

Orange, Calif.

Berkeley, Calif.

Dale City, Calif.

Santa Clara, Calif.


Small Population (25K-100K)

Novato, Calif.

San Rafael, Calif.

Los Altos, Calif.

Burlingame, Calif.

San Bruno, Calif.

Potomac, Md.

North Bethesda, Md.

Cupertino, Calif.

Mountain View, Calif.

San Mateo, Calif.

(VIDEO) The AARP Livability Index: Great Neighborhoods for All Ages: Brief introduction and overview of the AARP Livability Index.

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