Minneapolis/St. Paul: America’s healthiest cities for teens

Believe it or not, where you live affects your health. Whether you hang your hat in an urban high-rise, a farmhouse on the plains, or a suburban raised ranch somewhere between the two, your hometown plays a big part in your overall well-being. For better or worse, a variety of factors–from air quality and open space to health services and crime–affect you personally.

Current Health set out to identify the 10 healthiest cities for teens in the United States. We compared statistics from 20 medium- and large-sized cities in three general categories: environmental factors, health services, and lifestyle choices (see “And the Winners Are …”). The findings may surprise you.


Behind the Rankings

First CH examined the physical environment of each locale. If your city ranked high, you can breathe easy. None of our top choices were on the American Lung Association’s 2004 list of most polluted cities. Los Angeles leads the country in both smog and particle pollution-microscopic emissions from power plants, diesel engines, and other sources. Honolulu rates the cleanest air. However, each of our top 10 cities has acceptable or improving air quality, according to studies by the Foundation for Clean Air Progress.

Eight of our 10 cities have been singled out as great places either to walk (says the American Podiatric Medical Association) or run (according to Runner’s World magazine). New York, Honolulu, and San Francisco made both lists. “New York is a place where you walk around a lot,” agrees 15-year-old resident Charles. “Nobody in their right mind has a car in New York.” And San Francisco’s topography makes for scenic strolls. “There are so many hills!” says 18-year-old resident Jessica. “We all do a lot of walking. Since I’ve gotten my driver’s license, I do less–although I did go to Golden Gate Park to do pedal-boating recently,” she adds.

Local communities manage environmental issues in different ways. Six of our locales made the grade as top U.S. “green cities,” according to the Green Guide Institute, an environmental news service. Green cities get a thumbs-up for using renewable energy sources such as solar power and for employing building practices that produce less waste and preserve the environment.

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Your score: The risky business of being a teen

Now that you have completed the questionnaire, you can begin scoring it. Each section is designed to provide you with a sub-score. Then sub-score can be plotted on the risk graph to help you assess your risk in each area. To score each section, simply add up the numbers after each of your selections. Then plot your total on the graph. In this test, a high score indicates you are doing many things to insure or improve your health. A low score says that you may be taking unnecessary risks and should consider altering those behaviors in which you scored zero or a one.


20 to 22 Excellent

This scores indicates you are aware of the importance of safety to your health and you are making excellent decisions to prevent accidents, injury, or accidental death. Keep it up!

16 to 19 OK

Although your safety practices are good, there is room for improvement. Look at the questions you scored low on and consider a way to score better. Buckle up!

12 to 15 Risky

You are taking some unnecessary risks with your life and perhaps the lives of others. Pick one that you scored low on and try to alter that behavior right away. Then pick another until you work your way out of this category.

11 or lower Dangerous

You have at least doubled your chances of becoming an accident statistic by the choices you are making. Take action now to alter the dangerous lifestyle you are selecting. Your choices indicate either an ignorance of safety practices or a false assumption that accidents only happen to other people.



21 to 23 Excellent

You should be proud of your eating habits. You are making excellent choices and show an understanding of the basics of good nutrition.

17 to 20 OK

Although some of your eating habits are sound, you may want to check your snacking habits, tendency to skip meals, or unsound weight loss practices. There is room for improvement.

13 to 16 Risky

Your diet is one that could lead to trouble in the future. You are making unwise choices that could contribute to weight problems and health problems. Look for the questions you scored low on and make changes now. [Read more…]

The risky business of being a teen

One of the joys of being a teen, people keep telling you, is being carefree. Sure, there are tests, homework, grades, decisions, responsibilities. Sure, there are troubles in the world outside, but chances are that for you, they are rather remote.

But being a teen is not without risks. Accident statistics, recent health studies, and probably–at some time or another–your own personal experience, have shown that the teen years can be hazardous. The way you drive a car, are a passenger in a car, the things you eat and drink, the way you feel about yourself, and your everyday habits have a direct effect on your safety and health, both now and for the years to come.

teen healthy

Current Health 2 has put together this teen health risk appraisal. Go through it and answer the questions honestly. Your teacher will be able to give you a score sheet and a copy of the risk graph so that you can plot your own scores. It may help you get an even better handle on your future!

How safe are you?

1. How often do you wear your seat belt when riding in or driving a car?

A. Always or almost always (3)

B. More than half the time (2)

C. Only occasionally (less than 50 percent of the time) (1)

D. I never wear it. (0)

2. Do you ever ride with a driver who is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or drive under the influence yourself?

A. No, never (3)

B. Yes, but rarely (2)

C. Yes, sometimes (1)

D. Yes, often (0)

3. If you drive a car, how often do you exceed the speed limit by 10 mph or more?

A. I never drive or ride with someone exceeding the limit by more than 10 mph. (3)

B. I rarely drive or ride with someone exceeding the limit by more than 10 mph. (2)

C. I sometimes drive or ride with someone exceeding the limit by 10 mph or more. (1)

D. I often drive or ride with someone exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph or more. (0)

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Top 10 cities make it easy for teens to stay healthy

By now you may be thinking, I don’t live in any of those great places. Does that mean I’m doomed to a life of iii health? Of course not.

Although you may not be able to directly control the air quality or the number of health clinics in your area, you can make healthful decisions no matter where you live. Find a form of exercise you enjoy, and do it regularly. Avoid drugs. Eat right, get enough sleep, and see a doctor if you’re not feeling well. In many ways, your health hinges on the individual choices you make every day. So, no matter where you live, choose to live healthfully.

And the Winners Are …

1 Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.

The Twin Cities are among the least stressful in the country. Minneapolis is also considered the number-one place to get a good night’s sleep. Local folks watch the least amount of television; they’re too busy biking the area’s 50 miles of trails or boating on one of 22 local lakes.

Minessota St Paul

2 Honolulu, Hawaii

Named Americas Fittest City by Men’s Fitness magazine, Honolulu boasts clean air and a temperate climate, both of which encourage residents to spend time at the 485 local beaches and parks. The city’s movie theaters show ads that promote healthful living along with film previews.

3 Boston, Mass.

Close to 90 percent of Beantown’s residents earn a high school diploma. That’s significant because statistics indicate that people with higher education levels are generally healthier than those with less schooling. Boston also has low rates of stress, crime, and obesity.

4 San Francisco, Calif.

Tops on the list of vegetarian-friendly towns, the City by the Bay gets high marks overall. It is the only city rated as an all-around great place to walk, run, and bike. California has State laws regulating tobacco use and smoke-free air.

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