5 Best Cities for Being Thin

Jerold Leslie

BOSTON (MainStreet) -- Everyone's heard of Minnesota's Twin Cities, but people looking to lose weight or stay slim might consider moving to one of America's "Thin Cities" -- five communities with the nation's lowest obesity rates.

"Moving to a city with a low obesity rate absolutely could help you," says Reggie Ramsey of Healthways(:HWAY), whose Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index surveys thousands of Americans throughout the year on a wide variety of health topics. "You'd be surrounded by people in the same situation, so you'd be far more likely to take weight off or not put it back on."

Ramsey says research has found that a person's social network has a powerful impact on how healthy or unhealthy a lifestyle an individual chooses.

"We've actually mapped out populations and found that if you're a smoker or obese or don't exercise, you tend to have friends who are smokers or are obese or don't exercise," he says. "But if you have the social support not to smoke or be obese or skip exercise, that tends to be contagious."

Here's a look at the five U.S. locales the Gallup-Healthways survey has found have America's lowest obesity levels -- along with the skinny on local real estate conditions.

Median asking prices are from Realtor.com as of March (the latest month with data available), while the number of available home refers to listings within 20 miles of a given city's limits.

No. 5: Santa Barbara/Santa Maria/Goleta, Calif.

Obesity rate: 16.4%

Ramsey attributes much of this locale's low obesity rate to the presence of the 22,000-student University of California, Santa Barbara, as college-age people tend to be more active and slimmer than older folks.

He adds that California has the nation's seventh-lowest statewide obesity rate (22.5%), possibly due in part to warm weather than promotes outdoor activities and exercise.

"Throughout the state of California there are a lot of cities that have lower obesity rates," Ramsey says. "So, the people there have something figured out."

Gallup-Healthways found that a high 59.2% of the Santa Barbara area's 430,000 residents exercise 30 minutes or more at least three times a week, while 77.8% reported "eating healthy" all day long.

If you're interested in moving there, Santa Barbara-area properties have a median asking price of about $509,000 -- up 16% over the past year, according to Realtor.com.

The site lists some 3,000 Santa Barbara-area properties for sale, from a $14,900 two-bedroom home to a $22 million 5-acre estate.

No. 4: Barnstable, Mass.

Obesity rate: 15.9%

Lots of people in this 45,000-population Cape Cod community apparently follow Mom's old advice to "eat your vegetables."

Gallup-Healthways pollsters found that 69.1% of respondents consume the recommended five servings or more per day of fruits and veggies.

Another 84.5% say they don't smoke, while 76.8% report eating healthy all day and 61.2% say they exercise 30 minutes or more at least three times per week.

Massachusetts also has a low 22.2% obesity rate overall -- the fourth-best showing of any state.

Realtor.com doesn't track median asking prices for Barnstable, but lists about 1,000 local properties for sale.

Prices range from a $60,000 for a two-bedroom fixer-upper condo to $16.5 million for a six-bedroom oceanfront estate.

No. 3: Fort Collins/Loveland, Colo.

Obesity rate: 14.6%

Like Santa Barbara, this city's obesity rate probably benefits from a large college-age population -- in this case, from the 23,000 students of Colorado State University.

Fort Collins also scores very high for the percentage of people with easy access to a safe exercise space (97.3%) and enough energy to get everything done (87.4%).

As such, it's probably no surprise that lots of residents -- 62.3% -- also report working out for at least 30 minutes three times or more per week.

Colorado also ranks No. 1 among states in terms of healthy weights, with just an 18.5% obesity rate.

Fort Collins-area median asking prices rose 8.9% over the past year to $264,500, according to Realtor.com.

The site lists some 4,500 properties for sale in and around Fort Collins, from a $35,000 three-bedroom home to a $12 million, 114-acre estate.

No. 2: Bridgeport/Stamford/Norwalk, Conn.

Obesity rate: 14.5%

This suburban area north of Manhattan is one of America's wealthiest locales -- a good predictor of low obesity rates.

A high 72% of the 910,000-population area's residents also report "eating healthy all day," while a high 87.5% have a personal doctor -- a good predictor of healthy living.

Additionally, Connecticut has the nation's fifth-lowest obesity rate -- 22.3%.

Ramsey says residents also report low emotional health and job satisfaction, though -- bad signs for overall well-being.

As for real estate, the Bridgeport/Stamford/Norwalk area has a roughly $365,000 median asking price, up 7.4% over the past 12 months.

Realtor.com shows some 26,300 homes are for sale in the area. Prices range from $4,800 for a one-bedroom fixer-upper to $26 million for a 5.25-acre estate.

No. 1 city: Boulder, Colo.

Obesity rate: 12.1%

Ramsey believes Boulder has rock-bottom obesity rates partly because the University of Colorado's 26,000 youthful students skew the results a bit.

Located in the Rocky Mountains, the city also features more than 80 miles of biking and walking trails for exercise buffs, while Rocky Mountain National Park and 11 ski slopes are a modest car ride away.

"We tend to see a lot of exercisers in places like Boulder or Salt Lake City -- runners, bikers, climbers and skiers," Ramsey says. "But we also see people in top physical health in other ways, such as lower smoking rates and people eating healthier."

"It all goes back to your social network," he says. "If you're in a close community -- a college town -- people tend to go out running together or climbing together or a lot of other things."

As for housing, Boulder has a median asking price of about $370,000, up 5.9% over the past year.

There are some 12,000 Boulder-area houses and condos listed for sale on Realtor.com, priced from $35,000 for a one-bedroom condo to $3.7 million for a six-bedroom estate.