Apparently, determining which cities are in the best shape became a popular media hobby. Men’s Fitness made a list of the 10 Fittest and Fattest Cities in their ____, 2008 issue. Another media group, whose name eludes me, came up with their own list of the fittest and fattest cities in the United States. I personally think that MF’s list might be more accurate based on my travels. While I haven’t been to every city on the list, I did spot one noticeable trend amongst the fattest cities: All but one of them (Miami) was landlocked and flat. Almost all of the 10 fittest cities on the list were near bodies of water or near mountainous areas.
Now, this didn’t factor into MF’s decision-making criteria so it seems to me that this isn’t coincidence. My own travels validate this. I see a lot more fat people when the terrain is of no challenge to the human body, even in this age of mechanization. Another thing that I notice is that there are two kinds of cities: Cities that go out and cities that go up. The latter is expensive, complicated and only happens when space is at a premium. When city space is at a premium, the use of cars is discouraged. This happens more near mountains and bodies of water. So, people walk more.
I don’t expect you to move to one of these cities in order to improve your health. Actually, I don’t even encourage you to live in a city if you are. Still, I think that there some interesting insights that we can use to learn how get and stay fit. The terrain that we’re surrounded by has an impact on how fit we are. So, try to use it to your advantage. If you happen to live in the heartland, this certainly doesn’t mean that your home is a deathbed for physical activity. Just be aware of the shortcomings that your home presents to you and learn to work with them.