NEW YORK (Reuters) - Women in the United States looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle might consider moving south, while heading north could be a better option for men.
Raleigh in North Carolina has been rated the healthiest U.S. city for women, while Burlington, Vermont has earned the same accolade for men, according Men's and Women's Health magazines.
Both cities scored top marks in the magazine polls that ranked 100 of the largest U.S. cities in 30 categories ranging from obesity and the amount of time they spent working out to how often they saw their doctor.
"We ranked with criteria from things like percentage of adults who eat the recommended serving of fruits and vegetables to obesity and breast cancer rates," said Sascha de Gersdorff, of Women's Health magazine.
Raleigh scored high marks for prevention and the number of women keeping up with health checks, while San Jose in California ranked second because of the emphasis on exercise and fitness.
"We really liked (the) high numbers in screening women. Ninety percent have perfect Pap smear timing. Life expectancy is high, women are so pro-active in taking preventative measures," de Gersdorff said about Raleigh.
Birmingham in Alabama, Memphis and Detroit were deemed the unhealthiest cities for women.
Researchers sifted through data from sources such as the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Census Bureau and the American Cancer Society to compile the list.
After Burlington, Madison, Wisconsin was the second healthiest city for men. Both cities were in the top 10 for both men and women along with Plano, Texas; San Jose, California; Boise, Idaho; Austin, Texas; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Raleigh.
The unhealthiest 10 were the same for both sexes and included Memphis, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Detroit, Michigan; St. Louis, Missouri; Jackson, Mississippi; Cleveland, Ohio; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Toledo, Ohio; and Kansas City, Missouri.
"Southern states fare worse," said de Gersdorff. "That's not surprising. Obesity rates there are among the highest. The percentage of people who eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables is quite low."
She said the bottom 10 also suffered higher rates of illness, including heart disease and cancer, compared to the top 10.
"But these are obviously averages and of course it is possible to be healthy there," she added.
De Gersdorff said the study also reflects the importance of mental health to overall health and wellbeing.
"Cities that have highest mental health typically fared healthiest overall," she said. "In Madison, Wisconsin, for example, fewer than 30 percent of women reported feeling depressed. Madison has high life expectancy."
The complete lists of the healthiest and unhealthiest cities for men and women can be seen at www.menshealth.com and www.womenshealthmag.com.