Back in the 1860s, a gold rush lured men from all over the country to the Boise Basin. Some struck it rich, but most simply struck out. Today most of the gold is gone, but in its place is something much more valuable: a rich vein of health, happiness, and fitness that the men of Boise, Idaho, are mining every day.
We arrived at Boise after a long journey measured not in miles traveled but in numbers crunched. All told, we delved into more than a dozen data sources in order to assemble city rankings in 38 different criteria, including everything from air quality to unemployment, cost of living to death rates. We factored in property crime and criminally long commute times. We even took into account the ratio of single men to single women. (After all, what's a great town if you can't enjoy it with a great woman?) But as much as this is Boise's time to shine, the rest of America's men don't need to rush there again. We've unearthed five nuggets of wisdom that will enrich your life no matter where you live.
For more on the sources for our statistics and to see additional city rankings, go to MensHealth.com/metrogrades.
1. Boise, ID
Win the rat race
Eighteen minutes. That's the average commute time for our boys in Boise. Now, given that new Brown University research finds that the less time you spend commuting, the more minutes you have for sleep, exercise, and making your own meals, it's no wonder Boise took the top spot overall. The secret? Pedal power. See, when you drive, your commute is susceptible to slowdowns from packed roadways, but travel time on a bike is the same every day, explains Boise State University professor George Knight, M.A., founder and director of the school's Bicycle Congress. And the city is definitely cycling-centric: More than 220 miles of on-street bike lanes and 46 miles of designated bike routes run through Ada County. You'll also notice a raft of road-widening projects and find bike racks outside most public buildings. If you're a first-time bike commuter, spend a Saturday morning practicing your route to work. No place to ride? Sculpt a killer body in your living room--in 4 weeks!--with The NEW Spartacus Workout.
Quality of Life: A-
2. San Jose, CA
Give your heart a lift
Weight training isn't a "cardio" workout, but it can prevent a coronary. Just look at San Jose, a city of lifters that also has the lowest rate of heart disease deaths. "When your muscles are toned, they're more effective at extracting oxygen," says Theodore Chow, M.D., a cardiologist at the Regional Medical Center of San Jose. "That means your heart doesn't have to work as hard." What's more, moderate resistance training (60 to 80 percent of your 1-rep max) may lower your blood pressure enough to significantly reduce some of your risk factors for heart disease, according to a 2011 study review published in the journal Hypertension.
Quality of Life: C
3. San Francisco, CA
Defuse a gut bomb
If you want to see fat mammals in San Fran, check out the sea lions at Fisherman's Wharf. You won't spot many heavy humans here, though--the city has the lowest obesity rate in our ranking. That may also help explain why prostate cancer is as rare as flat roads here. "Following a low-fat, limited-calorie diet and maintaining a healthy weight, along with exercising regularly, contribute to reducing the incidence of prostate cancer," says Peter Carroll, M.D., M.P.H., the chairman of the urology department at the University of California at San Francisco school of medicine. An easy way to see if you're too heavy: Take "The Junk Test"--instructions here.
Quality of Life: C+
4. Plano, TX
Survive your drive
Texas may have the highway with the fastest speed limit in the country (85 mph!), but Plano knows how to make drivers slow down. From 2005, the year before the city installed red-light cameras, to 2010, crashes at camera-monitored intersections decreased by almost 40 percent, according to the city's police department. The net effect: a motor vehicle accident death rate well below the national average. But even if your city is sans cameras, you can still reduce your own risk of being T-boned. "If you're the first car at a stop light, you have a duty to look for approaching traffic even when entering the intersection on green," says Jeff Agnew of the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running.
Quality of Life: C+
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5. Seattle, WA
Order venti protection
To fight the Big C, you need a Bigger C: coffee, the official beverage of Seattle. A new American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that drinking 4 or 5 cups of coffee a day reduces colorectal cancer risk by 15 percent. But it isn't just the java that's taming tumors in the city. "The above-average economy in Seattle may provide men here with better access to colon cancer screening," says Bruce Lin, M.D., a gastrointestinal oncologist at Virginia Mason Medical Center in the city. "And that's the number one way to prevent colon cancer." Worried about the colonoscopy prep? A 2012 study in Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology found that a combo of Gatorade and the laxative polyethylene glycol (found in Miralax) was just as effective as a traditional colon cleanser and easier to tolerate. The net effect: Study participants were more likely to comply. Talk with your doctor about switching. (To ward off the big C, here are the 3 Steps You Must Take to Cancer-Proof Your Body.)
Quality of Life: C-
The 10 Best
1. Boise, Idaho
2. San Jose, Calif.
3. San Francisco
4. Plano, Texas
6. Burlington, Vt.
7. Austin, Texas
8. Salt Lake City
9. Madison, Wis.
10. Portland, Ore.
The 10 Worst
91. Tulsa, Okla.
93. Columbia, S.C.
94. Cleveland, Ohio
95. Memphis, Tenn.
96. St. Louis, Mo.
97. Toledo, Ohio
98. Charleston, W. Va.
100. Birmingham, Ala.
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