Frank Fornari couldn't imagine living anyplace else than Naples for keeping fit and healthy. It's a study in contrasts to cities with air pollution and no bike paths.
So it's no surprise to the 53-year-old that Naples/Marco Island is among the Top 10 "least obese" metropolitan areas in the United States, according to a new survey by Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
"There are so many places to exercise," said Fornari, who was working out Friday afternoon at the NCH Wellness Center North in North Naples.
Urban designers in Collier have done a good job with sidewalks, nature trails and green space to help promote walking and cycling — and the climate is a boost, he said.
"They've done a great job down here of not allowing it to become out of balance," he said. "Florida, at least on this coast, lends itself to the outdoors."
The Gallup poll of 350,000 adults, who were surveyed throughout 2011, found that the Naples/Marco Island obesity rate is 16.5 percent, the sixth lowest of 190 metro areas.
That's based on interviews where body mass index was calculated based on the weight and height of survey participates.
Boulder, Colo., ranked the least obese with a 12.1 percent rate, followed by Bridgeport/Stamford, Conn.; Fort Collins/Loveland, Colo.; Barnstable Town, Mass.; Santa Barbara/Santa Maria., Calif.; and then Naples/Marco Island.
The city with the highest obesity rate is McAllen/Edinburg/Mission, Texas with a 38.8 percent rate, the survey found. That's followed by Binghamton, N.Y.; Huntington-Ashland, W.V.; Rockford, Ill.; and Beaumont, Texas.
Metropolitan areas with high obesity rates are more likely to report chronic diseases, with diabetes rates 70-percent higher, and depression is also more prevalent.
Americans living in the high obesity cities pay an estimated $1 billion more in healthcare costs each year, based on estimates from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. The increase is estimated at $1,429 per person for additional health-care costs for an obese individual verses someone of normal weight.
The survey did not include children and that makes a difference, said Deb Millsap, spokeswoman for the Collier County Health Department.
"Because we are beginning to see an increase in obesity among kids," she said, adding that the obesity rate for adults has been holding steady for the past five years. "We'd like to see those numbers much lower but the state of our nation and the trend, we are just trying to beat the odds."
Even if Collier's obesity rate is low, add in the overweight category with the obese, and the rate escalates to 59.6 percent combined, said Stacy Revay, the healthy community coordinator for the health department.
Local collaboration among groups, namely through the Naples Pathway Coalition and the Smart Growth Coalition, to promote bike paths and sidewalks has a big impact, Revay said.
While fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods cost more than high-starch foods, there's a way around the expense by taking advantage of farmers' markets where prices are lower.
"We've got at least 10 now," she said.
Mark Kovacevic, 30, has no problem spending a little bit more for healthy foods because it helps with his weight-lifting regime.
"If I eat unhealthy food, then I feel sluggish," he said, who also was working out at the wellness center. His father is a diabetic, so he knows it's important to stay healthy and fit.
"I love the sunny weather," he said. "It gets you going."