Focused on health

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Why do Carmel residents care more about fitness than people in other parts of the state?

Carmel appears to have a love affair with health and fitness.

Bike trails. The Farmers Market. Yoga studio after yoga studio. The Carmel Marathon.

Even Mayor Jim Brainard tries to eat vegan when he can.

It seems to be one healthy suburb.

Local entrepreneur Cathy Miller looked at several locations for her unique fitness studio InCycle. She ultimately decided on Carmel over Indianapolis for that very reason.

“After investigating the demographics of Carmel, I was convinced the clientele was exactly who I wanted to attract,” she said. “I believed that the Carmel population would embrace trying something inventive and new in their quest to be their healthiest self.”

Miller isn’t the only one. When Earth Fare opened on Range Line Road, some questioned whether it would succeed since Whole Foods and Fresh Market are only a short drive away. Soon Giant Eagle supermarket in The Bridges will be another addition. Market forces show there’s enough interest to support multiple options and city officials said these health-food retailers are thriving.

“These are entrepreneurs that are putting their capital at risk because they look at the demographics in this area and it all suggests that people are willing to pay more for healthier options here in Carmel,” City Councilor Rick Sharp said.

‘HEALTHIEST COUNTY’

Hamilton County is ranked as the healthiest county in Indiana, according to a study by the Robert Wood Foundation. The county has 20 percent adult obesity, compared to 31 percent for the state as a whole and 32 percent for Marion County. Only 20 percent of people are physically inactive compared to 28 percent for entire state.

Yet, it’s hard to tell if Carmel is healthier nationwide. Most statistics lump Carmel into Indianapolis for health rankings and as a metropolitan area, where this area was No. 47 out of 50 areas analyzed, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

Those studies consider Marion County and its doughnut counties all together. But Marion County is No. 86 out of 92 counties. 

Why is Hamilton County the healthiest county in the state? Some might suggest it is because the county is more affluent and educated.

Hamilton County is top in the state for the percentage of residents who have some college education – 86 percent compared to 59 percent in Marion County. It also has the lowest amount of children in poverty at only 6 percent compared to 32 percent in Marion County.

Josh Kuklak, owner of Survival Fitness Gym at Clay Terrace, said he agrees education and income play a role. He said he’s traveled the state and has seen the sad truth that many underprivileged Hoosiers just aren’t taught the importance of healthy habits or sometimes don’t have the means. But Carmel is very fortunate in that regard.

“The Carmel demographic seems to be more in tune with the latest research on fitness and nutrition,” he said. 

 ‘PLENTY OF AMENITIES’

When Money Magazine ranked Carmel as the best place to live in 2012, it cited amenities such as the Monon Trail and the Monon Community Center as a reason for its ranking among small towns.

And perhaps these amenities encourage health-conscious families to make Carmel their home. Brainard said he heard from one family who was using Carmel’s bike trails so often that they decided to just move up here.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people who said, ‘I never exercised until the trails were here,’” Brainard said. “We built another 120 miles of trails adjacent to streets. It allows people close to their homes to get out and exercise.”

City officials care so much about providing alternative transportation that city councilors amended the city comprehensive plan to try to accommodate as many bike lanes that traffic will allow.

“It really is amenities like these that make Carmel a world-class city and a healthy population certainly is part of that,” City Councilor Ron Carter said.

Miller said she credits city leaders for the area’s healthy habits.

“I think Jim Brainard’s vision for Carmel has been instrumental in attracting the type of residents that are self-motivated to find interesting ways to be healthy,” she said. “I also give a lot of credit to Pedcor, who had the foresight to build City Center. The location is brilliant. Situated along the Monon Trail – everyone has easy access. Walkers, bikers, runners. It truly is perfect.”

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