It’s no surprise that Americans struggle with their health. Compared to other countries, our portions are bigger, we exercise less and our food quality is poor. It’s no wonder we aren’t as fit as we want to be. However, some states have taken the necessary steps to stay healthy and fit—proving that U.S. citizens are become more serious about their health.
The 2017 Annual Report from the United Health Foundation ranked the 50 U.S. states based on a number of factors that affect overall health. These included smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, low birth weight, drug deaths, environmental conditions and the number of medical providers per 100,000 people in their state. The report revealed that our nation is facing many health challenges, including premature deaths and a lack of health care providers.
Mississippi ranked dead last, officially making it the unhealthiest state. The southern state faces many challenges—including increases in smoking, low birthweights and many children who are in poverty. The rate of drug deaths has increased by 9 percent over the past five years.
But despite the doom and gloom—which, by now, we’ve come to expect from the American health landscape—there are some silver linings. A number of states, including Massachusetts, Hawaii and Vermont, are taking major strides to improve their health and fitness.
Here are some of the healthiest states in the U.S.
Massachusetts seized the coveted “Fittest State” title. The state has the highest number of primary care physicians and dentists. It also has the largest number of mental health providers—547 per 100,000 people, to be exact—which in today’s health landscape is crucial to overall wellness.
Obesity numbers in Massachusetts are low in comparison with the rest of the country. In the last two years, children living in poverty decreased by 38 percent. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker seems pleased with the results, saying that the report “highlights the notable progress that our state is making to improve the health and well being of every individual living in the Commonwealth.”
Hawaii comes in at Number 2, flaunting gorgeous beaches, a laid-back atmosphere and the best health care in the U.S. Hawaiians live two years longer than the national average of 79 years, thanks to nearly 95 percent of the state having employer-paid medical coverage. The state’s generous Medicaid benefits don’t hurt either.
But this change didn’t just happen overnight. Hawaii has a Pre-Paid Health Care Act, which sets minimum standards for employer-provided benefits and covers employees working at least 20 hours a week. The plan provides coverage for office visits, hospital stays and maternal care.
And the state’s emphasis on soaking up the sunny weather doesn’t hurt, either. Surfing, one of its most famous national pastimes, is a quality source of cardio that can also do wonders for easing a stressed-out mind.
The state of Vermont borders Massachusetts. With its stunning scenery of mountains and valleys, there’s plenty of room to move—and plenty of ways to stay healthy.
More than 81 percent of Vermont residents have access to medical and dental care, one-third of children report exercising at least 20 minutes per day and only four percent of citizens do not have health insurance. That’s a lot of quality health packed into a very small state.
Although Utah was ranked as one of the healthiest states, it also had one of the largest increases in cardiovascular death rate—going up by 10 percent since 2012.
But with all of the vast openness Utah has to offer, there are plenty of places to exercise, allowing the state to have lower occurrences of obesity and diabetes. Utah also boasts lower rates of smoking and drinking, as well as lower cancer death rates. And since last year, Utah improved its rankings in air pollution and immunization rates among children, so the state definitely seems to be on the path to better health.
Although Connecticut is small in terms of geography, the state boasts no shortage of healthy habits. Connecticut has an extremely low rate of smoking and violent crime. It also has one of the lowest percentages of uninsured citizens. And, in the past five years, cancer deaths in the state have decreased by 3 percent.
Curious about what states landed at the top and bottom of the list? Here’s the Top 10 Most Fit States:
- New Hampshire
- New York
The 10 least fit U.S. states
- West Virginia
- South Carolina
Although it’s fun to see where your state lands on the list, our personal habits go a long way toward enhancing our health. Mississippi natives need not fret. By exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, visiting the doctor regularly and filling your plate with whole foods, you can prove the statistics wrong.