AMERICA'S MOST RELAXED CITIES
Places with high unemployment, heavy traffic and long working hours can be physically painful to live in: Stressful environments can take their toll on your health, causing everything from headaches and back pain to high blood pressure and heart disease.
If you're searching for a mellow metro in the nation, head for the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., metro area. The Twin Cities rank No. 1 on a FORBES list of America's Most Relaxed Cities.
Researchers examined the country's largest 40 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas, measuring them on six metrics that are closely correlated with stress, or that result from stress.
In No. 1-ranked Minneapolis-St. Paul, joblessness isn't the stress-inducer it is elsewhere: At 7%, the unemployment rate is well below the 9.6% national average. Fewer than 5% of workers spend their mornings stuck in traffic, and 84% of the population reported recent exercise--the best workout rate of any city we surveyed. The metro also scored well for its high percentage of inhabitants that have medical coverage and good general physical health.
Another friendly Midwestern city, Milwaukee, Wis., takes second place. Milwaukee pulls ahead of other large metros in part because of its healthy work-life balance. The city features great commute times and short working hours. Just over 96% of its residents take less than an hour to get to work, and the average amount of time spent toiling away is among the lowest in the country, a manageable 38.4 hours per week.
Four cities that make the list are known for residents who love the outdoors. Portland, Ore. (No. 4), Denver, Colo. (No. 6), Seattle, Wash. (No.7) and San Jose, Calif. (No. 10) have all benefited from abundant opportunities to commune with nature, and exercise rates in all three cities are higher than most.
The other cities on the list include Columbus, Ohio, (No. 5.), where less than 4% of the population has a long commute, and Boston, Mass., (No. 3), which showcases healthy residents and world-class health care infrastructure.
Bringing the rest of the country's stress level down to that of these calm cities starts with making stress-reduction techniques an everyday practice, rather than an obscure fad, says Santor.