In recent years, there has been increasing discussion about what it means to live a healthy lifestyle. Across the country, families, groups of friends, and even whole communities have challenged themselves to get rid of their bad habits and begin working towards a healthier community. Even local organizations and government departments have gotten on board by organizing activities to challenge and motivate the local population.
The 20 small towns on this list represent the healthiest in America. These are the towns that have proven time and time again that their residents are dedicated to living a healthy lifestyle by consistently exceeding the average amount of exercise recommended by the national government. While some of them have actively organized themselves and worked hard to land a spot on this list, even more of them happen to be surrounded by natural landscapes that appeal to those who love being active outdoors.
Regardless of your interest in activities, there is something to keep you busy and active in Bishop, California. People come from far and wide to hike the Owens River Gorge or the equally impressive Pine Creek. Miles and miles of bike trails meander their ways through and around Bishop, some of the most popular spots being Round Valley to Mammoth, or along Highway 6 toward Nevada. However you choose to get your exercise in Bishop, ease your inevitably sore muscles with a relaxing soak in the area’s trademark hot springs.
Bonita Springs, Florida
It’s easy to be motivated towards health when you live in a place as outdoorsy as Bonita Springs, Florida. Located halfway between Naples and Fort Myers, Bonita Springs is known for its pristine beaches with powder-like sand. Indeed, most activity here revolves around the beach or the water in some way. Canoeing, swimming in the warm Gulf waters, sailing, and kayaking are all popular pastimes here. Kids especially love waiting on the beach for high tide, when seashells — some a foot thick — are washed ashore along with some other fun finds.
Brookings, South Dakota
According to a local study, Brookings, South Dakota residents are far-surpassing the amount of exercise recommended by the government. That’s not surprising, however, when you consider just how much outdoor activity is built into the Brookings lifestyle. The town boasts two public swimming pools, several large parks with baseball fields, plus a network of trails ideal for walking, jogging, and cycling. The Parks and Recreation Department also hosts a number of community-wide activities and events aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle to Brookings residents of all ages.
According to the National Survey of Children’s Health, Burlington, Vermont ranks among the top places in the country in which to raise a healthy child. That same study declares 90.2% of Burlington kids are in excellent or very good health, compared with the national average of just under 85%. Burlington residents love being outdoors, and time spent at nearby mountains or lakes is a popular pastime for families of all sizes and incomes. Additionally, education has often been linked to overall health, and Burlington has some of the highest graduation rates in the nation.
A small island across the bay from beautiful San Diego, Coronado, California is famous for the picturesque (and expensive) Hotel Del Coronado, former Hollywood hot spot and the filming location for Some Like it Hot. Coronado’s beaches are some of the cleanest in California, a good thing considering how popular beach activities are here. Running, cycling, yoga, and tennis are all done shoreside, while surfing and swimming are also popular. Even the restaurants are in on the health trends– trans fats are banned in all of the restaurants.
When you live in as magical a place as Haleiwa, Hawaii, you’re not likely to spend a whole lot of time on the couch. Much of Haleiwa’s local population begin their day on the beach, where jogging, surfing, paddle boarding, or just spending a few minutes meditating along with the sunrise are all popular pastimes. Further inland, the North Shore bike path is popular among both locals and tourists, and is widely known for its ideal paths and opportunities for good biking or hiking. Even the food in Haleiwa is healthier than some of the surrounding areas. One of the town’s most popular restaurants is Pupukea Grill, known for its spicy tuna quinoa salad, while the beach side Coffee Gallery is loved for its unique fresh acai bowl.
Surely it isn’t too surprising that another Hawaiian town has made the list of the healthiest places in America. The largest town on the Big Island, Hilo is home to the only ski destination in all of the Hawaiian Islands. Surprisingly, the slopes of Mauna Kea are crowded not with native Hawaiians, but with tourists and other ski junkies. The locals, most of whom embrace Hilo’s general lifestyle of a healthy diet and regular exercise, must be spending their days partaking in the less-surprising pastimes of surfing, diving, hiking, and jogging in the sand.
Hilton Head, South Carolina
Hilton Head, South Carolina proves that even places with a laid-back reputation can be among America’s healthiest small towns. Indeed, most of Hilton Head’s healthiest activities are actually kind of relaxing. First and foremost, the town is known as a resort-type destination, with an amazing 12 miles of pristine shoreline perfect for jogging, building sand castles, swimming, boating, snorkeling, and just about anything else you can think of. Hilton Head also boasts a number of pristine golf courses, and even hosts the PGA Tour’s annual Heritage Golf Classic.
Located on the edge of Yellowstone National Park, Jackson, Wyoming is an outdoor person’s paradise. Teton Pass is the preferred go-to for mountain bikers in the area, while those who prefer a good hike in the crisp, fresh air head to the trails that lead to Phelps Lake in Grand Teton National Park. Whatever your preference, stunning views of the surrounding valley and mountains are your reward for your hard work. Also in Grand Teton National Park is Delta Lake, where river surfing is a unique but popular pastime. And of course, in the winter, Jackson and much of the rest of Wyoming is all about skiing.
Beautiful Kalispell, Montana is located a mere hop, skip, and a jump away from Flathead Lake, the United States’ largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River (In fact, the word “Kalispell” actually means “flat land above the lake”). Not surprisingly then, Kalispell residents are water lovers. Boating, swimming, fishing, and other water sports make for a great day or weekend spent at the lake. During the winter, Kalispell’s proximity to Glacier National Park means plenty of skiing at Whitefish Ski Resort, while the trademark Montana wilderness that surrounds Kalispell is inviting to nature lovers at any time of the year.
Lebanon, New Hampshire
Lebanon, New Hampshire is about as healthy as one would expect of a town that is home to Dartmouth’s Medical School, one of the nation’s leading centers for all things health-related. The promotion of health and exercise comes right from the local recreation department, through which programs like youth skiing and snowboarding trips, farmers markets, community clean-up days, city-wide marathons, and more are offered. Such community-led events are popular among Lebanon residents of all ages, making it clear that Lebanon is a town that prides itself on its health and well-being.
Maple Grove, Minnesota
Whether spring, summer, fall, or winter, outdoor sports are a way of life in Maple Grove, Minnesota. For many Maple Grove neighborhoods, as many as five parks can be found in a two-mile radius, making afternoons of park play a common pastime for families and play groups. In the winter, one of Maple Grove’s 4,900-acre parks becomes a winter wonderland of cross-country ski trails, tubing hills, and a downhill ski area complete with a warming chalet. As if that weren’t impressive enough, Maple Grove is home to 10 lakes perfect for swimming and other water sports, all of which are accessible via the town’s 36-mile network of paved trails.
Utah is widely known for its stunning collection of national parks, and it’s said that Moab may be home to the best. Outdoor-lovers living here can often be found in Arches National Park, where an easy one-and-a-half mile hike leads to the picturesque Delicate Arch. For something a little more challenging, the locals recommend a hike into Hunter Canyon. Arches National Park is especially popular among those looking for good mountain biking, and local bikers often head in groups up to Slickrock and Amasa Back, two popular red-rock trails.
Residents of Monterey, California have no problem catching a breath of fresh air. Thanks to bicycle-friendly roads and rules that ban smoking on the beach, there is very little particle pollution or smog in Monterey. This makes it much easier to enjoy nature and the breathtaking wildlife Monterey has to offer. The whole town is a national marine sanctuary where residents can visit the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, or go scuba diving, sailing, or kayaking alongside humpbacks and blue whales. For those who would rather stay on land, a waterfront recreation trail means staying healthy, dry, and within sight of the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
A number of studies have found a correlation between religious faith and good health, and Orem, Utah seems to be one such small town that proves it. A large percentage of Orem’s population is Mormon, a religion that prides itself on clean smoke and alcohol-free living. As such, Orem has one of the lowest rates of cancer per 100,000 people in the country (as does its much larger neighbor, Salt Lake City). For those who do get sick, Salt Lake City also ranks number one in cancer survival. Besides the health benefits that seemingly come with faith, Orem’s proximity to national parks makes it a popular place to live for those who love spending time being active outdoors. Hiking, biking, camping, fishing, and running are all popular forms of exercise for Orem residents.
Hot or cold, sun or snow, Salida, Colorado residents love to spend time outdoors. In the summer, nearby S Mountain is chock-full of mountain bikers looking to tear up the single track trail. On especially hot days, families and groups of friends enjoy paddling or tubing along the Arkansas River. In the winter, Salida is just as active, with skiers coming from all distances to take advantage of the cross-country trails and the slopes at Monarch Pass.
San Luis Obispo, California
Like so many of the charming towns located along California’s Pacific Coast, San Luis Obispo residents can spend time at both the ocean and the mountains — all in a single day. Avila Beach is the popular place to enjoy the sand and surf. Though California’s ocean tends to be on the cold side, frigid temperatures rarely stop the die-hard surfers who frequent the coastline nearest San Luis Obispo. Further inland are plenty of opportunities for hiking, cycling, jogging, or mountain biking, most notably at Prefumo Canyon, Shell Beach Ridge Trail, or Bishop’s Peak.
Beautiful Sonoma, California is known for its lush farmlands and top-ranked wineries, so perhaps it’s not too surprising that roughly 56% of adults and 71% of children here consume at least five servings of produce daily (according to the California Department of Public Health). Exercising is also a common pastime among Sonoma residents, as the area’s biking and hiking trails are world-class. For these reasons, it’s no wonder obesity rates for Sonoma are on the lower side; 46% of Sonoma County adults maintain a healthy weight, compared to only 30% nationally.
Tybee Island, Georgia
A serious question: if you lived on an island with a three-mile stretch of beach that has been called “magnificent,” would you stay cooped up indoors? Probably not, and neither do those who live on Tybee Island, a picturesque barrier island located 18 miles east of Savannah. Exercise plays an important role in daily life here. Head to the beach around sunrise, and you’re likely to find a yoga class in session. While residents of Tybee Island do own cars, bikes are the preferred method of transportation, with plenty of skateboarders, roller skaters, and good old-fashioned walkers around, too. Even the restaurants are healthier than what you might expect in the South. Tybee Island restaurants serve up delicious servings of heart-healthy seafood, fish tacos, salads, and sandwiches.
With so much crisp air, gorgeous nature, and fresh meat, Alaska has some of the healthiest populations in America. In Valdez, winter days can be spent working up a sweat on Thompson Pass, where the hardcore brave the back country skiing (only sometimes with the help of a helicopter or snowmobile). Just as daring, but just as popular, is ice climbing, the best being the many waterfalls at Keystone Canyon. During the summer, sea kayaking at Shoup Glacier or paddling at Mineral Creek are two much more relaxing pastimes. Whatever the month, Valdez residents can end their days with fish caught fresh from nearby Robe River.