NPR logo Life in the Big City: Desperate for Air (and Green Leaves)

City Living

Life in the Big City: Desperate for Air (and Green Leaves)

Exhibit A: A Chop't restaurant. Exhibit B: Elixirs to cheat metro-death. hide caption

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Is living in a city healthy for its inhabitants? Lots of studies list the benefits of city life — chief among them, the 8 to 10 pounds urbanites keep off by walking all over the place. There are other perks, too, like centralized healthcare and a sense of community.

But when I walk around most big cities, I rarely think, "Damn, these are some healthy people." This time of year, they just seem pale, and maybe a little out of it.

Many of us struggle to live well in cramped communities. It's hard to find plentiful fresh air and sunshine in a city. When you do, it's often a matter of minutes before you're surrounded by thousands of your fellow-citizens.

From what I've seen, city-livers agree with me, at least somewhat. How else can you explain all the health-food stores, the vitamin-enhanced foods and places like Chop't, the post-Atkins salad joint that is spreading out after starting in New York?

People living in cities have long suspected that walking a lot is not enough. Neither is being too busy to eat their way through five hours of TV. So, they turn to things that are undeniably good for you: salad, proteins, juice.

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After huffing the same air as thousands of train-riders and eating a street-vendor lunch, who can blame them for trying to stack the deck in their favor?

Maybe that's why last year, New Yorkers were touted for living a long time.