Imagine two circles. Put work in one and play in the other. Now ask yourself: How often do my circles overlap?
In Lake Nona, the work lives and the play lives of residents do more than blur. If they were drawn into a Venn diagram, the two circles would practically share the same space. This is the sentiment of resident Sarah Magalee.
“We work in health and fitness, then we choose it in our off time as well,” she explains. “It creates a happy and healthy community where we really know how to enjoy life outdoors.”
The planned community in Central Florida got its start in 1996 on just 4,000 acres of land out by the Orlando International Airport. But the plan all along was to blend a suburban state of mind into an urban landscape. And along the way, the community evolved into one that put health and fitness front and center.
Planned communities are nothing new, but Lake Nona isn’t some Levittown, after all.
On the other hand, a planned community that blends health services, science and technology, with a lifestyle that reinvents how people live their daily lives, definitely is.
A Colorado native, Magalee has lived all over the country, but moved to Lake Nona in 2012 where she settled with her three kids.
“My career brought me to the Orlando area from out of state,” she says. “I just happened to find a home I liked in Lake Nona. I moved, not even knowing that this awesome community was being built. Turns out, I hit the jackpot!”
Magalee is a good example of a person who represents a community where the residents live to live outdoors. As a health advisor and certified personal trainer for Endurance Wellness and Weight Loss Center, she and her business partner, Dr. Jennifer Waddy, are attempting to “bridge the gap” between medicine and fitness for Lake Nona residents.
If anything represents Lake Nona, it’s a lifestyle of health and fitness, and it is (rightly) celebrated for its commitment to health and education.
Being home to Medical City—the 650-acre medical campus where doctors and educators provide top-notch health care to the community in its own backyard—doesn’t hurt, either.
Neither does drawing powerful players from the health industry. Recently, the community hosted the Lake Nona Impact Forum, a three-day conference including sessions with four U.S. surgeons general, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, acting surgeon general Vivek Murthy, and author Deepak Chopra. And while he was there, Chopra led a free guided meditation in the park. Plans are also in place for Chopra to partner with the community to develop a health tracking app for your smartphone, which will help you stay fit while allowing developers to correlate best practices for fitness, exercise and diet in the area.
Medical City, and its commitment to weaving the community into its mission of health and self-care, has also helped make this small (but growing) tight-knit community a diverse one as residents have settled here from all over the globe.
But Lake Nona’s secret weapon is how it has infused an active lifestyle into its overall design.
Lake Nona is very walkable, but it also has a bike-share program as well as 44 miles of trails to walk and jog on. In the fall, 1,000 people show up to participate in the 5k and 10k RUN NONA street race, and in the spring, another 1,000 people turn up to cycle in the Tour de Cure, which raises funds for the American Diabetes Association. And every Saturday morning, there are free yoga-in-the-park classes. In other words, there is something for you to do on any given day. In 2016 alone, Lake Nona put on more than 500 events overall, including movies in the park, live music and outdoor food market featuring local vendors.
Today, Lake Nona occupies 17 square miles (or more than 10,000 acres) and has a population of about 12,000 people who live in rentals, condos, warehouse flats, townhouses and single-family homes in the community’s 10 different neighborhoods. And it’s growing. At present, another 2,000 homes are currently projected.
The community’s emphasis on fitness is why Christine Hartmann calls the neighborhood home. The catering director for Spoleto Italian Kitchen is a former University of Kentucky volleyball player who moved to the area in 2012 with her fiancé, an Olympic swimmer. And hundreds of tennis pros and instructors have been drawn to the area thanks to the nearby U.S. Tennis Association headquarters.
“In a place like Lake Nona, it’s easy to stay motivated to be healthy and fit because that’s just the environment,” she says. “With the miles of trails, all the parks—dog parks too—it’s just easy to get outdoors and be active.”
All of these qualities are exactly what Magalee means when she says she “hit the jackpot!”
“Lake Nona’s commitment to health and fitness appeals to me in so many different ways,” she says. “I love going out for a run and seeing 10 other runners or a pack of cyclists cruising up Narcoossee. Anywhere you go in Lake Nona, you can meet an athlete of some sort.”
“I think this community is different than others because we truly play as much as we work, if not more,” Magalee adds. “That is a special thing.”
This article appears in the April 2017 issue of Central Florida Monthly Magazine. The free publication is distributed in Lake Nona, Lee Vista, Harmony and Kissimmee via direct mail (30 thousand copies), email (20 thousand subscribers), social media (thousands of followers) and the Social, CFM’s signature networking event. Download the digital issue here.