exercising

How the Rocky Mountains Helped Me Lose Weight and Manage My Diabetes

David Mendosa Health Guide August 31, 2007
  • Now that I live in Colorado I have lost weight. In fact, I lost so much that another way of putting it is that now Colorado is the thinnest state. Naturally, I don’t take all the credit.

    The country is getting fatter, according to a new report, “F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America,” from the Trust for America’s Health. But Colorado stands out as the thinnest.

    Colorado also ranks 50th in diabetes and blood pressure. Diabetes and high blood pressure do tend to go together with weight.

    The question is why Coloradans are the thinnest Americans. My friend, Dr. Bill Quick, who also posts regularly here, says that it’s the exercising at high altitudes that probably does it. He may be joking about the altitude, but he’s certainly right about the exercising.

    Colorado is indeed the highest state. It’s the only U.S. state that lies entirely above 1000 meters (3281 feet) elevation. That makes the air thinner here. So we have to breathe harder and people sometimes get altitude sickness when they come here.

    At first, this works against getting strenuous exercise. I know that it was hard for me to breathe for at least six months after I moved to Boulder at about 5,400 feet. My lungs eventually adjusted, and I now often hike at 12,000 feet or more.

    But why should we exercise even more in spite of this harder work? My guess is that there are two reasons: This state is exercise-friendly and everybody else is doing it.

    Here in Boulder, for example, we have perhaps the most bicycle-friendly city in the country. There are 360 miles of bike paths for the 100,000 people who live here. Different magazines have recently rated Boulder as the best triathlon town, the best city for cycling, and the thinnest city in the country.

    Another new study reports that obesity is catching. Diabetes isn’t contagious, but it seems that getting fat is.

    Who you hang out with has an effect on your weight. “The way to avoid becoming fat is to avoid having fat friends,” Gina Kolata concluded in The New York Times on July 26. What better way to do that than to live in Colorado?

    When you follow my example and move here, you still have to get out and exercise. But maybe not as much as all the experts have been saying.

    A third new study concluded that even low levels of exercise have major health benefits. Walking briskly for 30 minutes just three days a week is enough to drive down your blood pressure and improve your overall fitness.

    The trouble with exercising in Colorado is, of course, that we have to do it all year, and it gets cold here in the winter. There’s lots of snow even before you climb to 12,000 feet. But my new down jacket arrived yesterday, and I plan to get my new snowshoes soon.