CALIFORNIANS MAY HAVE TO CONTEND WITH earthquakes, mudslides, and high housing prices, but they also have some of the healthiest cities in the country, a new study reports. San Jose, Calif., was named America's healthiest city in a survey conducted by Bert Sperling's BestPlaces and vitamin maker Centrum, followed by Washington; San Francisco; Seattle-Bellevue-Everett; Salt Lake City-Ogden; Oakland, Calif.; Sacramento, Calif.; Orange County, Calif.; Denver; and Austin-San Marcos, Texas. The study is the first comprehensive look at the health of the 50 largest metro areas in the United States, based on lifestyle choices, exercise, health status, diet and nutrition, and mental health, says Sperling.

Sperling theorizes that Californians came out on top in part because “it's very important there for people to take care of themselves for their outward appearance” and because they understand that how a person feels has a lot to do with how he or she looks.

As always seems to occur, Sperling says, the survey yielded surprises, including the No. 2 choice of D.C.

“The people in D.C. have a very healthy mental outlook,” he says. “Things have changed there a lot with the security, but according to all the research, everything points to people handling it very well.”

As for the unhealthiest city in the nation, that dubious distinction goes to New Orleans.

“They call it the Big Easy, and they had the lowest percentage of people exercising,” Sperling says, “so maybe they're taking it a little too easy.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA, Salt Lake City, UT, San Jose, CA, Los Angeles, CA.