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When my teen-age nieces came from Virginia to visit me in New York City, their mother suspected their exuberant energy would quickly leave me in a puff of exhausted dust. Guess what. At the end of our first day hitting the sights and trooping up and down the city, the two totally wrung-out teens collapsed on my couch like old rag dolls. Suburban chicks who travel pretty much everywhere by car, they were not used to walking any kind of distance for any length of time.

According to an Economix article, the life expectancy in New York City is now 1.5 years higher than the rest of the nation. And one of the primary reasons for that could well be all our walking. New Yorkers love to walk. We walk to work, to shop, to eat, to entertainment, to everything. With mostly flat terrain, wide sidewalks, ample shade trees and a vibrant street life, the city is a walker’s paradise. And we are fast walkers, so forgive us, tourists, when your creeping, laid back pace tempts us to bop you out of our hurried way. We have places to go, appointments to keep.

Walking is also a boost for the brain. In a 2006 study, seniors who walked briskly for 45 minutes a day three days a week experienced an increase in brain volume, particularly in areas involving memory, planning and multitasking.

Fewer New Yorkers driving cars also means fewer deaths from auto accidents.

Another reason for our longevity is our success with kicking the smoking habit. The smoking ban of 2003 is estimated to have decreased deaths due to smoking by 10%. It’s interesting to think that in all the zillions of offices and places of business in Manhattan, not a single cigarette is being inhaled at this moment. Those still addicted are relegated to the street. There they gather for hurried drags in rain, wind and snow. An even more draconian measure may be in the cards for these smokers. I’ve heard the mayor is considering a ban on smoking in all New York City parks.

The city’s fabulous selection of fresh, organic and celebrated international food also contributes to New Yorker’s good health (true in other large cities too). Ten years ago I had to schlep 70 blocks by subway to get to a farmer’s market. Today I can conveniently stroll to four nearby markets and load up on a tempting variety of farm fresh goodies.

Anyone in the country can emulate New York City’s healthful advantages.  If you have no outdoor area suitable for walking or biking, walk your local mall. Consider giving that smoking habit its’ final kick (yes, I too gave it many final kicks, but not to worry, one day you WILL give those weeds their ULTIMATE final kick). And comb your neighborhood for the healthiest, freshest food you can find which will happily also be the tastiest.

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