Physical Activity and Lifestyle Choices Can Improve Your Health

What do Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C. all have in common? Every one of these cities has a following of raving baseball fans. Especially Chicago, after the Cubs ruffled the Cardinals' feathers and won their first World Series in 71 years.

That's one thing these five cities have in common. Traffic problems is another. But there's at least one more thing these metropolitan cities have in common. Know what it is? You might if you live there. These are five of the healthiest cities in America, according to a recent report.

Despite the fast pace of life in big cities, people who live in these cities don't smoke as much, and have lower risks for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and depression, than people in other cities. In case you're wondering, the least healthy cities based on the report were Tulsa, Durham, Indianapolis, and Fort Wayne.

So what makes people in the featured cities healthier than others? You might be surprised. It's probably not what you think. The four key factors that researchers believe contribute to better health in these cities than others are: walkability, bike-friendly roads and trails, parks, and public transportation.

If you're trying to improve your health, getting more exercise can help. And you don't have to run marathons. A brisk 30-minute walk every day can make a big difference. And if you live in an area where a walk outside isn't always possible, a treadmill or stationary bike works too.

But exercise isn't the only factor that contributes to better health. Your diet matters, too. For example, health experts recommend eating no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day. But the average adult gets 3,500 mg of sodium per day or more from fast food, snacks, pizza, frozen meals, canned soups, and processed foods.

If you want to be healthier, you need to make physical activity a regular part of your day. And you don't need to move to Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, or Washington D.C. do to that. Just go for a walk, ride a bike, hit the gym, swim, or take a fitness class. Top if off with cutting back on sodium and eating better, and you'll be just as healthy as people in these cities.