The Best Cities for Men 2012

© Men's Health // © Men's Health

We evaluated 100 cities in 35 categories ranging from exercise, employment, and air quality to heart disease, diabetes, and depression, using sources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CDC, and the FBI. After weeks of mind-numbing math, we hit "calculate" in the last column of our Excel spreadsheet and determined our final grades for the Class of 2012. Now comes your assignment: Take a little of what makes the top ten thrive and apply it to your own life.

Burlington, VT

Fight disease head-on

Burlington may be the birthplace of Ben & Jerry's, but it's hardly a town of chubby hubbies. "The obesity epidemic, which has been linked to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, hasn't hit as badly here," says James Vecchio, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of Vermont. "We have health-conscious patients." This translates into men who know their health screening options the way other guys know their fantasy football stats. Still, disease prevention is a two-way street in this city. "Our major medical center recently introduced electronic medical records, which will hopefully further boost rates of preventive care," says Dr. Vecchio. Doctors will soon be able to program preventive-care reminders into patients' e-records so they never miss screenings. Ask your M.D. about switching to digital records, and then download the MyChart app, which lets you use your smartphone to view your medical file and any screening reminders. To have health tips delivered to you daily, sign up for the Men's Health Daily Dose newsletter.

1 of 11 Downtown Burlington, VT (© Glenn Van Der Knijff /Getty Images)

Madison, WI

Score points for your heart

NBA lockout or not, nets are swishing in Madison, where folks shoot hoops more often than in 98 of the 100 cities we ranked. "The winters are so bad that people would rather play basketball at the gym than football in the snow," says Lamont Paris, an assistant coach of the men's basketball team at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. As a vigorous, aerobic activity, basketball can improve your heart health, which may help explain Madison's impressively low rate of men keeling over from coronaries. To maximize your pickup payoff, "don't just hang out on one end of the floor," says Paris. "Sprint beyond the midcourt line with every quick change of possession. You're varying speed and direction, with explosive bursts and short rest periods. Basketball is essentially interval training." Improve your pickup game with these Basketball Tips and Drills from Sweet 16 Coaches.

2 of 11 Downtown Madison, WI (© Lana Sundman/Alamy)

Plano, TX

Hit the ground running

Plano's motto should be "Happy Trails," because it's home to some of the country's most avid joggers, cyclists, and mountain bikers. "We have about 65 miles of trails, many of which are interconnected," says Renee Jordan, the city's trail system planner.

"Plus, Plano has sidewalks everywhere, so people can jog directly to the trails." Follow the Plano prescription for fitness, and your mind and body will thank you -- a Utah State University study found that outdoor runners felt more revitalized than gym-bound runners. No access to trails? Buy a treadmill with a Passport media player, such as the AFG 7.1AT treadmill ($2,000, afgfitness.com). The device communicates wirelessly with your TV to match outdoor video footage with your speed.
No gym membership? Anyone can do our Weight-Free Weekend Workout.

3 of 11 Downtown Plano, TX (© Walter Bibikow/Getty Images)

San Jose, CA

Talk your way out of trouble

It's not just the weather here that's sunny. Rates of sadness and hopelessness are exceptionally low in this Silicon Valley city, according to CDC data. "People here are highly involved in the tech industry. It's a progressive area," says Brian Sackett, Ph.D., a private-practice psychologist in San Jose. "As a result, there isn't as great a stigma attached to seeing a therapist." If you're feeling blue but hate the idea of therapy, think about it this way: "Something you care about -- your marriage, your job -- is threatened when you're depressed," he says.

"Initially, therapy doesn't have to be something you do for yourself." Set an external goal, rather than an emotional one, for your first few sessions. Feeling blue? Try one of these 5 Instant Mood Boosters.

4 of 11 Downtown San Jose, CA (© Walter Bibikow/Getty Images)

Boise, ID

Grow your own

Harvard researchers recently indicted potatoes as one of the worst foods for your waistline. So how can the Spud State's capital be a hot spot for healthy men? "We have a lot of community gardens," says Nancy Rush, R.D., of Idaho's Central District Health Department. And surprisingly, potatoes aren't Boise residents' primary crop. "People mostly grow greens, squash, broccoli, and lots of tomatoes," she says. "With community gardens, you not only gain access to fresh food, but you also get exercise when you plant, harvest, and weed. Plus, you enjoy the social benefits of working together." Ready to stake out a plot? Search for a garden in your city at communitygarden.org. At the grocery store, stick to the 125 Best Packaged Foods for Men.

5 of 11 Boise, ID, Skyline (© Glen Allison/Getty Images)

Austin, TX

Go for greens

One Austin T-shirt slogan describes the Texas town as an "island of blue in a sea of red," a nod to its political leanings. But look at their dinner plates and you'll see plenty of green: People here are more likely than people in any other city in the U.S. to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Fresh produce is part of the culture: Whole Foods started in Austin more than 30 years ago as a small neighborhood grocery. Today, their flagship store in downtown Austin is 80,000 square feet. The city is overrun with food co-ops, farmer's markets, and organic restaurants. Not a fan of vegetables? We guarantee you'll like at least one of the 30 recipes in Mark Bittman's Carnivore's Guide to Vegetables.

6 of 11 Downtown Austin, TX, skyline (© 4 Eyes Photography/Getty Images)

Virginia Beach, VA

With 38 miles of shoreline and a 9,200-acre nature refuge, Virginia Beach is a haven for stress-free, active living. The two are connected, of course: Research shows that just 5 minutes of outdoor activity can improve feelings of well being. Your move: Have a walking meeting for your next one-on-one.

Related: The Incredible 82-Day Speed Shred

7 of 11 Virgina Beach, Virginia (© Anne Rippy/Getty Images)

Seattle, WA

Learn for life

Six in 10 Seattle adults have a Bachelor's degree or higher -- the highest ratio of any large city in the United States. Credit an intellectual employment base -- Boeing, Microsoft, the University of Washington and Amazon, to name a few. An unintended side effect of all that brainpower: Better health. Men with the most education live a full 12.9 years longer than the least-educated men, according to an August 2012 study in Health Affairs. "Education exerts its direct beneficial effects on health through the adoption of healthier lifestyles, better ability to cope with stress, and more effective management of chronic diseases," the study's authors write. But you don't need an expensive piece of paper to live until you're 90. Just follow these 50 Simple Ways to Add Years to Your Life.

8 of 11 Downtown Seattle, WA, skyline (© Alaska Photography/Getty Images)

Aurora, CO

Fight cancer to the finish

You probably know the town from the tragic shooting earlier this summer, but there's a bright side to this Denver suburb, too: It has the lowest rate of cancer death in the country. The University of Colorado Cancer Center is one of only 41 Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the U.S. -- a prestigious designation given by the National Cancer Institute. Three different universities collaborate on research, technology, and remedies. Visit the Men's Health Cancer Center to learn how you can prevent, detect, and treat common cancers.

9 of 11 Aurora, CO (© Ted Wood/Getty Images)

Raleigh, NC

Trash talk

"With three powerhouse basketball schools, we are one of the best regions in the country for college basketball -- some joke that March Madness is a holiday in our area," says Ryan Smith, director of communications for the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitor's Bureau. And March Madness, which begins in this hip North Carolina mountain town every year, actually makes you sane. Men are more isolated than they've been in past decades, research shows, which is making us more stressed and depressed. But sports help men connect. Harvard psychiatrist Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., gives his clients this standard advice: Name a game. Find some friends. Play it once a week. "Just get together," he says. "And you've got to have a beer afterward." Pick your brew with our guide to The Best and Worst Beers in America.

10 of 11 Raleigh, NC, skyline (© Philip Scalia/Alamy)