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March 4, 2011
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Eagle County one of the country's most active

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - Colorado is the most active state in the nation, and Eagle County is one of the most active counties, according to a new government study that looked at physical activity county by county across the United States.

Only 11.6 percent of Eagle County residents are considered inactive, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Douglas County leads Colorado at 11 percent, making it the fittest county in the fittest state. Summit County came in at 11.8 percent, and Pitkin County at 13.3 percent.

Steve Russell, director of the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District, said he's not surprised Douglas County topped the list. Places like Douglas and Eagle counties fit the demographic, he said.

Income levels tend to follow activity levels; the higher the income, the higher the participation.

Colorado and Eagle County are also "self-selected" populations, Russell said.

"Colorado is a great place to live, and people move here to be active and outdoors," Russell said. "If you compared our native population to other states, the gap might be smaller. But people move here because they want to be active in the environment."

Prowers County, at 23.8 percent, is Colorado's least active. It's out on the Eastern Plains, on the Kansas border.

Kentucky is the least active state, and four of the five least-active counties in the country are in Kentucky, according to researchers, and four of the five most active are in Colorado, including Eagle County.

"It's the opportunities we have to be active," said Jamie Gunion, marketing director with the Vail Recreation District.

It's a lifetime range of activities, Gunion said.

"So much of what we do is based on the great outdoors and everything we have to enjoy here in the valley," she said. "We have golf courses, there's the mountain bike series, trail running series, the day camps are designed to help young people be active."

Turns out that Prowers County is close to the national average - more than 25.4 percent of Americans do nothing physical in their free time.

The CDC defines physical activity as any dedicated and purposeful moving beyond normal everyday activities, and that includes activities such as walking for exercise, gardening, golfing or running.

That means those inactive people get no physical exercise other than their regular jobs, the study reported.

"Physical activity is crucial to managing diabetes and reducing serious complications of the disease," said Ann Albright, Ph.D., R.D., director of CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation. "Moderate intensity activities such as dancing or brisk walking, for just 150 minutes a week, can significantly improve the health of people with diabetes or at high risk for the disease."

States with at least 70 percent of counties in the group getting the most physical activity were Colorado, California, Hawaii, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Among the states where at least 70 percent of counties fell into the group with the least physical activity were Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Consequently, Kentucky and those other southeastern states have the highest rates of diabetes and obesity.

Physical activity can help control weight, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve mental health, the CDC says.

The study reflects data collected from all 3,141 U.S. counties from adults who reported their physical activity levels.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study is the third in a series. The first two looked at diabetes and obesity rates.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Mar 9, 2011 04:34PM Published Mar 4, 2011 09:51PM Copyright 2011 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.