Many of the states throughout the southeast remain among the worst in the nation in obesity totals. Experts say now is the time to begin cutting back.

Still a weighty issue

Published 8:00pm Wednesday, December 29, 2010

You may have noticed a bulging belly after the third slice of sweet potato pie during Christmas dinner this year, but for the New Year there is still hope to get healthy.

Obesity continues to be a national health threat, and according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. has an obesity rate of nearly 28 percent with more than 73 million Americans overweight. Obesity rates continue to be the highest among African-Americans and Hispanics.

Obesity rates are higher for middle-aged adults and Katrina Baker, customer service representative for Vaughn Regional Medical Center’s Wellness and Fitness Center, said its important for adults to be consistent in their exercise.

“It’s important for older people to stay active,” Baker said. “Exercise helps to keep your weight balanced, tone muscles and improve cardiovascular health.”

Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia have obesity rates of more than 30 percent.

Baker said fruits and vegetables are still key to staying healthy.

“Make sure to also drink lots of water and stay away from the sweets,” Baker added.

Children aren’t exempt either. The CDC adds childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years. Obesity rates for children ages to 11 increased from 6 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent in 2008. Obesity rates for 12 to 19 climbed from 5 percent to 18 percent.

Local children can get healthy by exercising their “spirit, mind and body” at the YMCA.

Dan Shaddock, Interim CEO of the YMCA on Medical Center Parkway, said there are many extracurricular activities that kids can do at home to stay active.

“They can run in place, do crunches, pushups or do jumping jacks to help coordination,” Shaddock said. “Kids can also walk their dogs with their parents or grandparents and participate in sports like basketball, baseball or soccer.”

Shaddock said swimming is also a way to get the body fit.

“Swimming or aquatics is a wonderful fitness activity because it exercises so many muscles at once,” Shaddock said. “It works your abdominals, arms and shoulder muscles, and it’s instructional, therapeutic and recreational.”

Shaddock adds healthy eating habits should be developed from a young age.

“Children develop favorable tastes to certain foods — like fast food, because it’s an inexpensive item for parents to buy,” Shaddock said. “If parents introduce good, healthy foods and leaner meats to their children at the beginning, they (children) are more likely to develop a taste for them into adulthood.”

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