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Forsyth County residents quite healthy in spite of insufficient healthy food choices



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David Byrd, 24, a student at North Georgia College and State University, rides his bike at Central Park in North Forsyth. Byrd said he enjoys riding his bike because he is active and loves to be outdoors. ABBY BREAUX/Staff. (click for larger version)

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Forsyth County residents exercise at Central Park on a recent Wednesday. ABBY BREAUX/Staff. (click for larger version)
August 27, 2012
FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — In spite of a high percentage of fast food restaurants and insufficient access to healthy food, Forsyth County residents are losing weight and staying active.

The County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, developed by the University of Wisconsin's Population for Health Institute, determines a county's health from factors such as smoking, physical activity, drinking and various physical environment factors.

National benchmarks determine the county ranking for each health factor and from there, determine the overall county ranking.

Forsyth County ranked second in the state for healthiest counties, falling short of the top spot to Fayette County.

Forsyth County falls below the national average in obesity, ranking 23 percent, compared to the benchmark of 25 percent, and in physical inactivity, with a ranking of 20 percent compared to the benchmark of 21 percent.

Forsyth County did not have positive rankings for several physical environment factors.

The county ranked at 48 percent for access to fast food, while Fayette County ranked at 40 percent.

Both counties ranked higher than the national benchmark of 25 percent.

Trust for America's Health's national obesity statistics for 2012 place Georgia's obesity rate at 28 percent, ranking the state 24th nationally.

The county is also more limited in access to healthy foods, coming in at 10 percent compared to only 6 percent in Fayette County and 0 percent for the national benchmark.

The study provides the assumption that residents of Forsyth County may eat poorly, but maintain an adequate amount of physical activity to ward off obesity.

The study shows the county as having less access to recreational facilities than the national benchmark, but when it comes to providing outdoor recreation, the county isn't lacking.

"Forsyth County's wide variety of parks and recreational offerings provide countless ways for citizens to stay active, whether that be by taking part in organized sports, hiking up Sawnee Mountain, working out at one of the three recreation centers or participating in a martial arts class," said Jodi Gardner, spokeswoman for the county.

Forsyth County's parks and recreation system includes approximately 2,000 acres of parks with a total of about 36 miles of trails available for residents.

Trails are designed to be multi-functional so residents can rollerblade, walk, run or ride bikes.

The county has 22 parks and recreation facilities, plus three recreation centers, which include multi-purpose athletics fields, tennis courts, playgrounds, lake access, camping, trails, running tracks, dog parks, indoor gyms and a skate park.

"I love to run at the Big Creek Greenway," said Haidee Bell, a county resident. "I often take my kids to Sawnee Mountain to hike to the top."

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