If you want to live a longer life, move to Salt Lake City, Utah. Or San Francisco, California, or Austin, Texas.
Those three cities lead RealAge's top 10 list of the "youngest" cities in America—metropolitan areas with such healthy lifestyles that on average their residents are physically at least two years younger than their chronological age, and many are years younger than that. RealAge analyzed data from the largest 50 metropolitan areas to compile the rankings.
A passion for fitness and a loathing for smoking are key factors in Salt Lake City’s No. 1 ranking. At the other extreme, residents of Knoxville, Tennessee; Greensboro/Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Nashville, Tennessee, are aging faster than they should.
Here are the 10 metro areas where you have the best odds of staying young:
1. Salt Lake City, Utah
2. San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, Calif
3. Austin, Texas
4. Denver, Colo.
5. Boston, Mass.
6. Washington, DC/Baltimore, Md.
7. San Diego, Calif.
8. Raleigh-Durham/Chapel Hill, N.C.
9. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.
10. Seattle/Tacoma/Bremerton, Wash.
And here are the metro areas likely to make you old before your time:
1. Knoxville, Tenn.
2. Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point, N.C.
3. Nashville, Tenn.
4. Saginaw/Bay City/Midland, Mich.
5. Cincinnati, Ohio
6. Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.
7. Oklahoma City, Okla.
8. Las Vegas, Nev.
9. Jacksonville, Fla.
10. Tulsa, Okla.
“Each city’s ranking is more than just a number,” said Keith Roach, M.D., chief medical officer of RealAge and a co-creator of its test. “It’s a unique assessment of the healthy lifestyles, or lack of them, in each metro area—of how people live there, what they’re doing right and what they need to change.”
It's interesting that half of the 10 youngest cities are in the Western U.S., from Denver to Seattle.
“Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the mountains, but Western cities have adopted active lifestyles that can slow down the aging process,” Roach said.
To compile the rankings, RealAge analyzed data for America’s 50 largest metropolitan areas generated by its landmark online assessment, the RealAge Test, taken by more than 27 million people. This is the first time the company has analyzed aggregated results on a city-by-city basis.
A random sample of 1,000 RealAge members was drawn from each city. The sample data was adjusted for age differences, so a metropolitan area that's a magnet for retirees wasn't penalized, and a city jammed with university students didn't benefit.
The test uses a powerful algorithm that combines the latest scientific studies with lifestyle, genetics and medical history to calculate your RealAge—how old your body thinks you are.
While multiple lifestyle factors are involved, here are four big ones that help people in Boston (the fifth youngest city), for example, stay younger and healthier than those in Cincinnati (the fifth oldest):
1. Getting the right amount of sleep. Six of the 10 youngest cities are among those with stellar sleep habits. And (surprise) New York isn't the city that never sleeps—the Big Apple ranks second in ZZZ's; Austin is first. Sleeping six to nine hours a night can make your RealAge as much as three years younger.
2. Stubbing out cigarettes for good. Four of the five fastest-aging cities have the highest percentage of smokers.
3. Not sitting around. Six of the 10 youngest cities are among the most physically active in the country. A daily 30-minute walk can make your RealAge up to 3.5 years younger.
4. Controlling your blood pressure. Five of the 10 fastest-aging cities—Knoxville, Cincinnati, Oklahoma City, Jacksonville and Tulsa—are among the worst for high blood pressure. Nothing ages you faster.