Hawaiians sum up Honolulu’s high marks for health in a single word: paradise. With Honolulu’s warm weather and postcard-ready scenery, residents spend more time exercising than do people in almost any other city we surveyed—and have one of the highest life expectancy rates.
Bill Goding, 55, who after retiring from the U.S. Air Force signed on as a full-time lifeguard for the City and County of Honolulu, surfs now and then, lifts weights, and jogs. But that’s just for fun. For exercise, he and his wife, Pat, 51, a registered nurse, train with a group that does grueling island-to-island swims.
“I’m lucky,” Bill says. “I work at Ala Moana Beach Park, which has a half-mile-long swimming area protected by a reef, so I can train on my breaks.” And he loves the atmosphere. “Just about every triathlete comes down here to train at some point. It’s just a very active, happy place—people are always walking or jogging. The weather is great all year long, so there’s no reason to be indoors.”
The city isn’t perfect, he concedes. For one thing, the traffic is awful. “And when it’s time to travel off the island, nothing is nearby.” Even more daunting: the über-expensive housing. The Godings, for example, live just outside the city, in Waikele. But experts say other economic strengths—a very low unemployment rate, for instance—can offset that weakness. Plus, residents stand to gain from Honolulu’s commitment to preserving the island, with strict growth limits, sustainable-tourism efforts, and programs to protect views and the shoreline.
Sarah Yuan, an expert on aging at the University of Hawaii, says it also helps that Hawaiians embrace growing older. “In island culture, people feel more natural about aging, in general. They have a lot of respect for their elders, and older people have a higher status,” she says. “They don’t see growing older as a negative.”