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Gazette Premium Content Colorado crowned as nation's fittest state

MATT STEINER Updated: March 10, 2013 at 12:00 am

Raise your protein shakes. It’s time for a toast.

Coloradans can flex their well-cut biceps in celebration once again. For the third year in a row, Gallup pollsters found Colorado has the nation’s lowest obesity rate.

Colorado was the only state on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index where less than 20 percent of adults are obese. The state’s 18.7 percent was almost three points better than second place Massachusetts.

The results, released this month, are from a yearlong survey in 2012 that polled 353,564 American adults.

West Virginia came in at the other end of the spectrum as the fattest state in the country with 33.5 out of every 100 people tipping the scales as obese, Gallup said.

Residents of the highest state in the U.S. with its 6,800-foot average elevation also boast the lowest rate of high blood pressure (22 percent) and rolled in second (7.4 percent) on Gallup’s list of states with the lowest rate of diabetes.

It’s not hard to tell why Coloradans are so fit. A look around Colorado Springs on Sunday gave the answer.

A day after the winter storm of hikers, bikers, climbers, walkers, runners, joggers and skaters were out in force. That’s not counting all those who hit the slopes Sunday to take advantage of the fresh powder.

“The fact that we see so much sunshine gives us an easy reason to get out,” said Evan Kelley, a 26-year-old personal trainer at the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region.

Kelley moved to Colorado from Connecticut specifically to join the outdoor, fitness culture that runs so rampant in an area that is home to the U.S. Olympic Training Center and numerous elite athletes.

The former University of Colorado at Colorado Springs student talked Sunday while working in the not-so-sunny confines of the training area at the downtown Colorado Springs YMCA. Kelley said “everybody at the gym” does “something outdoors” to supplement their indoor training.

Tim Kranz, one of the owner’s of City Rock climbing gym on Nevada Avenue in Colorado Springs, agrees with Kelley that the landscape pushes Colorado ahead of the others in terms of fitness.

But Kranz pointed to the exceptional athletes like Matt Carpenter — perennial Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon victor and Manitou Springs City Council member — as skewing the numbers a bit.

“We have a bunch of people who are superfit,” Kranz said. “But we have our fair share of those that aren’t fit at all.”

Colorado has positioned itself to avoid some costly health issues related to being obesity. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says obesity increases the chance for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, respiratory disorders and certain types of cancer.

Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alabama joined West Virginia at the bottom of Gallup’s obesity list. In each of those states 30 out of every 100 people are obese.

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