Women’s Health Writeup Roundup: The Best Cities for Women

Sep 27 2010 Published by under Health, [Science in Society]

Sci had a great idea to dissect the articles in Women's Health and take a look at the information being offered to women on heath, wellness, relationships, and life. It meant taking a good, hard, in-depth look at the popular expert material offered to female wellness consumer. The results were a little alarming. Take a look around Scientopia today for more on beauty tips, doctor's visits, fidelity, and more.

Hey ladies, want to feel better? Or have a stronger heart? Maybe you'd like to prevent breast cancer? Or find a hot date, or just live longer? Well, what if I told you that I could show you the secret to achieving one of these goals? Really, pick one and I could give you a little assurance on how you'd just taken a preventative measure. How? Well, according to this slideshow from Women's Health, it all depends on where you live. They've identified the best cities for women interested in pursuing one of the objectives above. But before you pack your bags, let's take a look at the information they're really offering.

First Women's Health reports that San Jose, California has the second lowest depression rate in the nation. The reason? More women reported working out at least twice a week in comparison to other places surveyed. Exercise releases endorphins which increases positive moods--that's great, but does it really mean that if you live in San Jose you'll be more likely to exercise? It's possible. Over time, you may be more influenced by your peer group, and if they're into exercising, then you might take up that activity. But that's not a guarantee.

The other benefit of living in San Jose, apparently, is the serotonin:

San Jose averages 300 sunny days a year, so residents soak up mood-boosting serotonin and vitamin D (five to 30 minutes in the sun twice a week is all you need).

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter. It helps regulate the cardiovascular and muscular systems, and parts of the endocrine system. And some research has suggested that low levels of serotonin may be linked to the onset of depression. While sunlight may help boost serotonin production, it does not account for the sole means of your serotonin supply. Your body naturally produces serotonin in levels that are related to diet, exercise and stress. Just so we're clear, "soaking" up the sunlight is not the only way to get serotonin--in fact, you've probably got the right supply already. Not that there's anything wrong with getting some fresh air and exercise and enjoying the sunlight (while wearing sunscreen), but living in San Jose will not necessarily restore your body's chemical balance.

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Greening the Big Apple

The Manhattan skyline is unmistakable. And it's a fan favorite—search Google "best skylines" and it will consistently be ranked in the top favorites. It has become a symbol of the city itself—sold on coffee mugs, in snow globes, on t-shirts. But what if the straight edges of the buildings and roofs were softened? If the roofs didn't pierce the sky but melded urban and natural a bit more easily? Imagine a skyline that could shift seasonally, and not simply as a result of new construction. It would be a subtler change that might confer a more real sense of the vitality of the cityscape. The icing on the cake? It would be good for us too.

Our recent discussion about infrastructure is definitely very much on my mind—particularly as my commute has now become longer and more congested as a result of shortsighted planning. The fire at the switching station on the LIRR has been a reminder of the vulnerabilities that lurk below the surface of our constructions. And provocations, stress on the system, can come from anywhere, including nature—something that New York City already knows: A thunderstorm on August 8, 2007 caused 7,000 kilograms (about 15,000 pounds) of dirt and debris to flood the subway system during the morning rush hour forcing New Yorkers and city officials to acknowledge that our subway drainage system is ill equipped to handle suddenly water surges. But this should not have come as news to anyone—we've been through this at least once before in recent memory: Lower Manhattan was flooded in December 1992 as a result of a storm.

Nature seems to be our biggest threat at the moment, and it's time we started planning and building with this in mind. A article from Scientific American earlier this year, reports the ways poor infrastructure can compound the effects of climate change. For example, a rise in temperature means it will get hotter underground as well. New Yorkers, you think it's hot in the subway during the summer months now? A 2 - 4 degree increase (predicted by 2100) may not sound like much, but you'll likely feel differently as the sweat pools at the base of your spine. One solution would be more vents to help push the hot air out of the subway, but more vents means that more water can get it—so we're back to dealing with flooding.

But it's not just planning below ground. What we choose to do with our open space is also an issue. We construct buildings. Fine. We all need places to live and work—I'm definitely not going to be the one to say we need to live in mud huts or caves or gather around an open campfire. But many of our buildings are capped off by black tar roofs. In the summer, they become infernos and add to the sweltering effect felt in the city.

One idea that is slowly gaining popularity is the suggestion that we can reclaim these spaces, these miniature hells, as National Geographic writer Verlyn Klinkenborg referred to them last August, saying that the urban roof is "a lifeless place of bituminous surfaces, violent temperature contrasts, bitter winds, and an antipathy to water." This doesn't need to be the case. But it will require changing the way we think about our landscapes—and our skylines. Green roofs reintroduce plants, supported by shale and clay to allow for drainage, and as an added bonus, they attract birds and insects, who may have been displaced by urban development. They can a more natural feeling to the concrete jungle.

A local, public green rooftop space on Water Street in Downtown Manhattan.

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