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Move it, move it

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | December 21, 2020 1:09 AM

Garth Merrill offers shoes, clothing, nutrition and more at Fleet Feet, his Sherman Avenue store.

During customer encounters over 15 years, he's come to a conclusion: A reason so many love it in Coeur d'Alene and are moving here is for the recreational opportunities. Whether its summer, fall, winter or spring, people have plenty of options for exercise, inside and out.

"It's not just serious runners using the North Idaho Centennial Trail and Tubbs Hill, but everyday folk are interested in maintaining their health and advancing their fitness, largely so they can go out and enjoy all the wonderful things we have here," Merrill said.

The Lake City is a place of parks and trails, with Lake Coeur d'Alene the crown jewel. Those assets are part of the reason Coeur d’Alene cracked the top 50 list of the most fitness-friendly metro areas in the nation.

The list, compiled by the marketing company SmartAsset, measured key indicators when determining which cities made it easiest to get fit.

The marketing firm looked at the percentage of the population that either bikes or walks to work, the number of fitness professionals in the area per capita, the concentration of fast food restaurants, and the hourly wage of personal trainers, all indexed in comparison to relative population.

Oddly, Coeur d’Alene ranked relatively low in these numbers. Only 2.7 percent of area residents walk to work, according to the United States Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community survey.

Likewise, the area’s concentration of fitness professionals per 10,000 working adults came in notably low at 25. And the average hourly pay of $17.25 came in just over the national average.

The percentage of fast food restaurants among all restaurants in the area boosted the Coeur d’Alene area’s numbers. According to the survey, which took its numbers from the 2018 Census Bureau’s business pattern study, only 37 percent of restaurants in the Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls/Hayden metro area qualify as fast food providers.

What ultimately propelled the area onto the list was the concentration of fitness-related businesses. For every 10,000 businesses in the area, 97 are considered fitness-related, which ranks 19th in the nation.

One such business is Fuel, a gym off Government Way in Coeur d’Alene. Manager Chad Schmidt said promoting a healthy lifestyle in the age of COVID-19 begins with keeping everyone — members and staff alike — in a safe atmosphere, and that gyms like Fuel have provided a different kind of healthy lifestyle.

“For a lot of people, going to the gym during [the COVID-19 pandemic] has just been about maintaining your mental health,” Schmidt said. “A lot of people were going stir crazy because they had nothing to do at home for those 55 days the gyms were shut down. So coming here was a way for people to provide themselves some important self-care.”

Schmidt said one of the best ways to walk into a new fitness routine is not to walk in alone.

“For a lot of people, having an accountability buddy is a great way to stay motivated," he said. "When you have a friend or a personal trainer there to help you maintain your positivity and maintain your motivation, it’s a great way to work toward your goals, whatever they are.”

Gyms like Fuel don’t account for all of the 97 businesses per 10,000 in the area. The list also qualifies a fitness-related business as recreation centers, athletic supply companies and sporting goods stores, the latter of which Kootenai County is by no means short on supply.

Chris Parker, sales manager at Two Wheeler and Ski Dealer in Hayden, said the pandemic happened to cultivate a need that fell right into the bicycle and ski shop’s wheelhouse.

“A lot of people are moving to this area because it is an outdoor rec-friendly area,” Parker said. “So that’s driven up demand. But during the summer, people were just looking for something to do. All summer long, we had no bikes on the floor. People were doing anything to get outside. They were coming in to buy bikes, and they weren’t picky. We’re just now getting inventory back in stock.”

Kara Gibson of SmartAsset said smaller markets like Coeur d’Alene don’t face the same challenges residents in larger cities have to overcome, adding to the area’s fitness-friendly appeal: overcrowding, higher costs and an endless supply of quick meals.

“Getting more exercise and eating healthier often rank among the most popular New Year’s resolutions,” Gibson said.

That Coeur d'Alene is fitness friendly doesn't come as a surprise to anyone.

Earlier this year, it was named Idaho’s Most Fitness-Friendly City. Insurify out of Massachusetts announced its findings from a nationwide study that measured fitness-related factors, including cities with the highest proportion of residents in careers that demand physical activity, the rate of adults reporting physical activity for their leisure time, access to recreational rentals and the population within walking distance to a park.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says physical activity is one of the best things people can do to improve their health.

It cites benefits such as reduced blood pressure, less anxiety and better sleep and stronger immune system. It can also help to improve mood and energy level.

"Physical activity, such as walking, is vital for healthy aging and can reduce the burden of chronic diseases and prevent early death," according to CDC.

Active people generally live longer and are at less risk for serious health problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some cancers, CDC reported.

"For people with chronic diseases, physical activity can help manage these conditions and complications," according to CDC.

Coeur d’Alene’s inclusion on the latest fitness list keeps in line with a trend: healthier lifestyles finding homes out west.

Whether its summer, fall, winter or spring, people have plenty of options for exercise, inside and out.

The City By The Lake’s ranking of 47 (technically a tie for 47th, alongside Rochester, N.Y., and just below Lebanon, Pa.) out of the 301 largest metropolitan areas is no western outlier. Nineteen of the top 50 cities on the SmartAsset report hail from America’s western-most states. Case in point: The number one city on the list is Missoula, Mont., a mere two-hour drive east.

Or, for those looking to get a little more exercise, a two-day, 20-hour walk.

photo

BILL BULEY/Press

Wyatt Goshorn works with a customer who was trying on running shoes Thursday at Fleet Feet.