Madison is the capital of Wisconsin, and also the bike capital of the Midwest. One of many reasons Madison is so healthy is because the city heavily relies upon their two-wheeled sidekicks to get from place to place. With parks, beaches, and trails throughout, the area is ideal for anyone who appreciates being outdoors. Ranked by numerous sources as one of America’s healthiest places to live, Madison meets the criteria by having several farmers’ markets, strong health plans, a community who uses their medical resources, and higher mental health than other cities. According to a Women’s Health magazine survey, less than 3 percent of women in Madison report feeling depressed.
Health insurance in Madison also ranks well nationally, with coverage from Dean Health Plan, one of the best health plans in the U.S. for member satisfaction, and two other regional carriers. Madison residents can get the basics and more covered through six overall health plans who connect policyholders with the city’s top medical facilities. Even healthy individuals need coverage, and you can find your rates are much more affordable when you are in good health. Madison plans are also great for your wallet, especially through regional carriers who offer lower rates than the larger ones like UnitedHealthcare.
How much coverage can you get for the lowest premium in Madison? It depends on who applies, but a 30-year-old female resident, for example, can score a $2,500 deductible HMO plan for $95 per month from Physician’s Plus. In many other cities offering HMO coverage, you’re looking at two to three times that amount for the same benefits. Dean also offers a great plan for $107 per month with zero coinsurance and a $1,000 deductible, with an excellent member rating. To find out how much your coverage in Madison costs at the moment (premiums are always shifting), enter your zip code below and compare plans.
Living Well and Paying Less
The verdure and charm of Madison make it easy to want to stay outdoors. The weather, perhaps not always. If living in Mad City hasn’t inspired you to get on a bike yet, there are many other ways to stay active and save money. Some of the prime reasons to use your bike are, of course, cutting down on gas money and air pollution, and getting regular exercise. But plenty of runners and walkers also frequent the city, and if you prefer going on foot, you will still save money and increase your health.
Health insurers are looking to insure the most healthy people out there, which makes it easier for you to access good care when you are in good health. While this is discriminatory and not sensible, the laws will soon adjust in favor of people who need more than just an annual exam. Even after health reform takes effect, being healthy will have a positive impact on your medical bills – as there will not be as many.
Several individual health plans also include resources for members to stay healthy for free or a discounted rate. Dean Health Plan gives members access to various health classes to educate members on well-being, exercise, even yoga and Qigong. Humana members have access to discounts on gym memberships, eye care, and other health-related services. Check with your health plan of choice to find out which services they offer to their members for free.
And of course, you can take health into your own hands by getting into a routine of activity and eating a balanced diet of fresh, local foods.
The Madison area is rich with parks, trails, and natural scenery to explore and utilize to your benefit. Residents have access to an abundance of paved paths for walking or biking throughout the city, including the waterfront loops around Lake Monona and Lake Mendota. With all the trees and water surrounding Madison, it is no wonder people here are more happy and healthy. Whether you hike, bike, run, or paddle, you can keep your mind and body in great condition without even leaving the area.
With the nation’s largest bike supplier only miles away and bike paths allowing for smoother city traffic, cycling the pavement is easy in Madison. Several paths within the city are beautifully scenic and equally fun, and with such a high concentration of bikers (more than cars) you can go for a solo spin or join one of many groups. For a map of bike routes throughout Madison, visit Google Maps, or visit a few of the locations listed below.
- Lake Monona: Madison, WI
- UW Arboretum: Madison, WI
- Mad City Capital Cruise: Madison, WI
- Swiss Scene Classic: Middleton, WI
- Military Ridge State Trail: Verona, WI
With Kettle Moraine State Forest within an hour drive, Madison residents have access to some of the top mountain bike trails in the nation. Riders of all levels of expertise can enjoy the local parks, many of which offer incredibly technical trails among beautiful scenery. While some parks require a paid permit, others cost nothing at all. Within several miles of downtown you can ride various loops, cyclo-cross runs, and expert-level singletrack.
- Bagels Forever: Madison, WI
- Quarry Ridge Park: Fitchburg, WI
- Devil’s Lake State Park: Baraboo, WI
- Blue Mound State Park: Dodgeville, WI
- Badger Prairie Park: Verona, WI
Closer to the city, many of the hiking trails you will find are very quick, scenic routes, but outside of Madison a few miles, you can hike for over 50 miles straight. Though bikes dominate the area, Wisconsin also has numerous parks fit for an easy to moderately difficult hike. For an adventure without a huge commute, try some of these spots, and for a greater chance to explore, take a day trip out to Devil’s Lake State Park.
- Glacial Drumlin State Trail: Cottage Grove, WI
- Parfrey’s Glen: Merrimac, WI
- Blackhawk Ridge: Sauk City, WI
- Indian Lake Park Trail: Cross Plains, WI
- Ice Age Trail: Lodi, WI
Cross Country Skiing
With long Midwest winters to survive in Madison, you can always make the most of it by layering up and putting on some skis. If you can emerge from the driveway, there are several trails to enjoy in the freezing cold. (However, if the weather is a bit too extreme for your liking, it’s entirely sane to bring your activity indoors.) From your backyard to the county park, here are a few locations for those who brave the chill and snow with poles in hand.
- Glacial Drumlin State Trail: Cottage Grove, WI
- Willow Springs Trail: Barneveld, WI
- Cherokee Marsh – South Unit: 802 S. Wheeler Rd., Madison, WI
- Elver Park: 1240 McKenna Blvd, Madison, WI
- Door Creek Park: 7035 Littlemore Drive, Madison, WI
A less costly and cumbersome alternative to skis, snowshoes are a practical way to get to the coffee shop and back on a snowy day. As many claim the sport is as easy as walking, it can get your whole family out of the house during the frigid winter months. While their size allows you to go just about anywhere, snowshoes allow park visitors an all-access pass to nature compared to their elongated ski or snowboard relatives. While they may not require tremendous skill, it’s better than being confined to the house (or the gym) during the winter. The following parks are designated by the City of Madison as snowshoeing spots, but you can carve your own trail as well.
- Cherokee Marsh – Mendota Unit: Madison, WI
- Edna Taylor Conservation Park: Madison, WI
- Garner Park: Madison, WI
- Mineral Point Park: Madison, WI
- Walnut Grove Park: Madison, WI
Madison has a farmers’ market for nearly every day of the week, sometimes multiple in one day if you happen to miss another. One of the greatest draws of living in Madison is the easy access to fresh, local foods, and the opportunity to meet the people who make and grow them. As the city is all about keeping it local, the co-ops and independent eateries are unique to the area, therefore serving the population that much better. Find organic, fresh foods to bring home and cook up something amazing, or check out what lively downtown Madison has to offer.
- Dane County Farmers’ Market: Wednesday Market and Saturday Market on the Square provide nearly year-round service from the great nearby farmers and artisans. Rotating locations.
- Capitol View Farmers Market: Wednesdays from June to October, offering a fun and lively community setting to get fresh foods, flowers, and other local goodies in East Madison. Northstar and Sharpsburg Dr, 608-218-4732.
- Willy Street Co-op: Local, community-owned organic grocery with cafe, juice bar, and hot bar for all hours of the day. East: 1221 Williamson Street, (608) 251-6776. West: 6825 University Avenue, (608) 284-7800.
- Northside Farmers’ Market: Sunday mornings from May to October, Madison’s newest market serves the Northside with freshness, entertainment, and the best produce of the season. Northside TownCenter.
- Harvest Restaurant: While the menu is exquisite and can get costly, there are also several affordable options at this organic farm-to-table restaurant. The experience is worth it, and there is no dress code – despite their awards and good taste. 21 N. Pinckney St., 608-255-6075.
- Green Owl Cafe: Vegetarian organic eatery with a menu that features a wide range of influences, from curry melts to veggie jambalaya. 1970 Atwood Ave, (608) 285-5290.
- Dandelion Food Cart: Open Monday through Saturday during the summer, this food cart offers delicious, generous vegetarian meals to go (with great customer feedback). Library Mall (State St), (609) 561-1887.
- Bandung Restaurant: Indonesian cuisine for everyone from omnivores to vegans, open every day with fair prices. 600 Williamson St, (608) 255-6910.
- Salad Creations: Salad bar for take-out or delivery (always a nice option) in downtown Madison with wraps, soups, and paninis. 610 Junction Rd, Ste 105, (608) 833-8881.
Images: Livability.com, Examiner.com, Eco-kid.blogspot.com.