Colorado Is Nation's Least Obese, Most Physically Active State

It's easy to feel like a slob when it seems like so many Coloradans are constantly outdoors doing physical activities like hiking, cycling, yoga, backpacking, skiing and snowboarding.

Surely, not every state in the nation is this active, right?

An annual report recently released by the United Health Foundation confirms that suspicion. "America's Health Rankings" found that Colorado is the least-obese state in the nation, with just 20 percent of the state's population considered obese.

The report also found that Colorado is the most physically active state in the nation, with just 17.9 percent of the population considered "physically inactive."

This has yielded some tangible health benefits, including Colorado's low instances of diabetes (ranked the lowest in the nation), deaths from cancer (ranked third lowest) and cardiovascular deaths (ranked second lowest).

There are other areas, however, in which Colorado did not score so well. While the report does rank our state the tenth healthiest overall, Colorado was found to have high instances of excessive drinking. The report finds that nearly 20 percent of adults in Colorado qualify as excessive drinkers, putting our state 36th in that health category.

The finding on alcohol abuse echoes reports from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which in its 2015 survey on drug use and health found that Colorado was the only state in the country that simultaneously abused four main categories of substances: alcohol, opioids, cocaine and cannabis.

According to a Washington Post article that reported on the findings:
Colorado stands out as the only state which is a top consumer of all four substances. The state’s heavy consumption of marijuana is predictable given that the drug is legal there. The other three legalization states are heavy consumers of pot, too (Washington, Alaska and Oregon; the latter is also a leader in non-medical use of prescription opioids). But residents of the mile-high state are also heavy consumers of all non-marijuana intoxicants as well.
Another area in which Colorado did not score well in this week's report from the United Health Foundation is the state's high-school graduation rate. According to the report, Colorado ranks 45th in that category. This also has significant bearing on Colorado's "disparity in health" score; our state ranks 48th for having such a wide discrepancy between the reported health of residents who graduated from high school versus those who did not graduate from high school. As the report enumerates, "Education level is a major component of socioeconomic status that is associated with improved health outcomes."

A summary of the report's findings is pictured in the graph below. Green bars indicate a positive impact on the state's health score, yellow bars a negative impact:

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Chris Walker is a freelancer and former staff writer at Westword. Before moving to the Mile High City he spent two years bicycling across Eurasia, during which he wrote feature stories for VICE, NPR, Forbes, and The Atlantic. Read more of Chris's feature work and view his portfolio here.
Contact: Chris Walker