August 18, 2020
When Kat Wiranowski runs through the Rocky Mountains in autumn and the brilliant white trunks of aspen trees pop against the golden fall foliage that shimmers when the wind blows, she remembers why she moved to Colorado.
Wiranowski works in marketing for the natural products industry, but trail running is her true love. Whether she’s tackling a 50-mile ultramarathon or hitting the trails after work, Colorado is the perfect place to do it.
“I find it grounding and exhilarating at the same time,” says the 43-year-old, who used to live in Georgia. “I actually made the choice to move to Colorado specifically because it supported the type of lifestyle I wanted to live, whereas in Atlanta, I had to fight for it.”
Wiranowski isn’t alone.
“I think people move and live here to be able to do outdoor activities,” says Stephen Bentfield, who says his family’s move to Denver’s suburbs seven years ago helped keep them active. “At the heart of it — it’s so beautiful here that people go for hikes, walks, they bike, and ski any free time they get.”
The data bears this out: At 84%, residents of Colorado have the highest self-reported rate of physical activity of any U.S. state, as of 2018. In comparison, the national average is 76%; Kentucky and Mississippi have the lowest (68%).
This hasn’t happened by chance — Colorado invests in being a healthy place to live. In 2015, the state began a four-year initiative to make Colorado the best place to ride a bike. The state also disburses grants every year to build and improve mountain trails like the ones Wiranowski runs on. The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment partners with local health departments to improve sidewalks and bike lanes, and to enhance neighborhood safety so that people can exercise more.
Exercise is one of the best things Americans can do for their health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, it could prevent 1 in 10 premature deaths. Despite this, only half of American adults are getting enough of it.
Replicating the active lifestyles of Coloradans nationwide could be one way to change that. Building healthier communities is another. “Healthy, active living is a mindset in Colorado,” says Christa Dellebovi, an instructor and director of training at two Denver fitness studios. That’s a mindset that we can all look to emulate, no matter where we live.