Colorado May Rank High Among Healthiest States, But Teens in Denver and Statewide Face a Deadly Problem

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It’s no secret that Denver is one of the best cities in the nation for fitness… but could that spell trouble for the state’s teens?

The state has long been in the Top 10 states for best gyms or more fitness opportunities in the country. Forbes, for example, named Denver the fifth best city in terms of health based on access to fitness centers, golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools, and, of course, the Rocky Mountains.

In addition to being one of the most fit states in the nation, Colorado has the second lowest obesity rate out of all states, with only 20.4% of all residents meeting this criteria.

But according to CBS Denver, Colorado also has the fifth highest instance of eating disorders among American adolescents.

These diseases also have the highest mortality rate among all mental illness, according to Dr. Ken Weiner. Weiner works with the Eating Recovery Center in Denver and has been studying and treating the illness for several years.

Weiner explains that the disease goes beyond an obsession with weight loss for patients. “What the eating disorder does is it hijacks their brain and they get excessive in what they’re doing,” he said.

Fitness obsession isn’t new to Denver, or Colorado as a whole.

Additionally, local services like ClassPass, which are available in some of North America’s biggest cities, allow subscribers to take advantage of the areas many gyms, fitness clubs, and yoga or pilates studios for under $100 a month.

That means that fitness junkies can get their fix without paying a large membership fee in just one location. They can try yoga one day and play tennis the next, the latter of which can cut the risk of death from a variety of health causes in half if played three hours per week.

But when translating that to the brain of an adolescent with an eating disorder, the desire to exercise can go into overdrive, especially with too many options present.

Denver’s many gyms and fitness studios could lead to opportunity for compulsive exercising in someone with an eating disorder.

“While anorexia nervosa and most eating disorders are biologically based, dieting and over exercising are triggering behaviors,” Weiner said. Moreover, Weiner explains that the disorder isn’t a choice but a mental illness — not something that those with these conditions can control.

Weiner and staff members at the Eating Recovery Center, like Robyn Cruze, help patients regain a sense of control over their eating habits to recover from an eating disorder.

Cruze herself battled the anorexia for 18 years, starting at age 11.

But living in LA at age 29, she found herself questioning the hold the disease had on her. “I remember just thinking, ‘This is my life, this is my life; and I’m either going to die or I’m going to reach within with every part of the fight that’s left in me,'” she said.

Today Cruze works with Weiner to help others who are going through therapy, and she is able to offer her story to them.

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