By NICOLE SMITH/Montana State News

Following Colorado, Hawaii, California, and Massachusetts, Montana is one of the five states with the lowest obesity rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The national average for obesity in the United States is 34.9 percent, while Montana sits well below that at 24.6 percent.

This may be due to the fact that roughly 80 percent of Montanans claimed to be physically active in 2012, a number that has hovered between 75 and 80 since 2011, according to Americas Health Rankings.

Montanans may be more likely to be physically active because of the wide variety of physical activities available in the state – fishing, skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, horseback riding and rock climbing are just the beginning of a long list of outdoor or physical activities found around the Treasure State.

In addition, the Montana Health Data and Statistical Reports show that the state ranks below the national average for prevalence of diabetes, coronary heart disease, and heart attacks. Montana does rise above normal for strokes – the national average is 2.7 percent as compared to 3.2 percent on the eastern plains of Montana.

Considering Montana’s overall good health, it is odd to see residents who live shorter lives and are generally older than the U.S. average. The average age in Montana is 39.8 years old with a life expectancy of 78.35. The national average is 37.2 years old with a life expectancy of 78.8. The expectation would be younger residents, therefore easily contributing to the high accounts of physical activity and low accounts of obesity. However, the largest age population in the state is 40-45 year-olds.

Edited by Ryley Walker