From scenic trails to lush farmers' markets, these active American towns offer ideal surroundings for slimming downBy: Editors of Prevention
In the quest to shed unhealthy extra pounds, your environment can make or break your shot at success. “Community factors such as bike lanes, safe places to exercise, and regular farmer’s markets can promote weight loss,” says Robin Blackstone, MD, a founding member of the Obesity Action Coalition. These cities and towns all boast features that support slimming down—from recreation opportunities to access to healthy food to supportive communities—and have lean, healthy populations to show for it.
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Boulder owes its superlow obesity rate (12.9% versus the national average of 26.6%) to its obsessively active citizens. The natural beauty of the Rocky foothills compels residents to hike, bike, ski, run, and contort themselves into yoga poses all year long. An abundance of restaurants focused on green cuisine and local ingredients makes it easy to eat healthy. It seems like spending any more than a few days in Boulder would mean shedding a few pounds almost without trying.
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It may garner less national buzz than its “first place” neighbor to the south, but Fort Collins is also filled with fit, superactive people and has a sunny climate that makes a backyard veggie garden a no-brainer. But what really makes this city an ally in the quest to lose weight and keep it off is the strong sense of community created by its friendly residents. Studies show that relationships with healthy people can help keep you healthy, and in Fort Collins, you’ll find such connections in abundance. (Search: Things to do in Fort Collins)
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The climate never furnishes Ventura residents with an excuse to skip workouts—they’re gifted with some of the best weather on the planet. Mastering (or at least attempting) water sports like surfing, paddleboarding, and sailing is practically mandatory, but landlubbers can find plenty of ways to sweat along oceanfront paths and in the nearby mountains.
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Just south of the Canadian border lies this town that you may not have heard of but ranks high on lists of places with healthy habits and overall health—and low on the obesity rankings. Maybe the stunning scenery (the San Juan Islands just across Puget Sound; the white peaks of the Cascade Mountains to the east) compels Bellingham residents to get outdoors and get active—CDC data reveals that they have some of the lowest levels of physical inactivity in the nation.
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According to polling done by the Gallup-Healthways Wellbeing Index, citizens of Asheville eat fresh produce more regularly than almost any other place in the country, in no small part due to its 15 farmer’s and smaller “tailgate” markets. This town is a hot spot of the farm-to-table movement, and locally sourced ingredients fill the menus of its nearly 250 independent restaurants (that’s a lot for a place with fewer than 100,000 residents). You might think that the local focus on delicious food would result in weight gain, not loss, but Asheville boasts low obesity rates.
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Situated at the heart of Cape Cod, the town of Barnstable is composed of seven villages, each of which has a cozy small-town feel, though they swell with visitors during the summer. Despite eateries plying tourists with buttery lobster rolls and seaside ice cream cones, Barnstable has some of the country’s best-behaved residents: They tend to exercise regularly, eat well, favor fruits and veggies, and not smoke, according to the Gallup poll.
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This midsize metropolitan area on California’s central coast offers a wealth of outdoor exercise options, from surfing to hiking to biking, and a workout-friendly climate. Because it’s far from the hustle (and traffic) of the state’s urban centers, San Luis Obispo has a laid-back vibe that would banish the term “stress eating” from your lexicon. Its proximity to Paso Robles wine country means food and drink options that are unexpectedly sophisticated for a city of this size, so dieters will find no shortage of healthy restaurants.
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San Diego’s ridiculously nice weather means there’s no such thing as bathing suit “season.” Swimwear, shorts, and sundresses are worn year-round here, a big incentive to shed extra pounds for good. The climate also means four seasons of affordable fresh produce—farmer’s markets are filled with citrus, avocados, and more local bounty even in the dead of winter, when farms in the rest of the country are covered in snow. Combine that with the wealth of scenic spots for outdoor recreation and the city almost guarantees a slimmer, sunnier you.
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