Editorial: We’ve got to get moving
Op-Ed · December 21, 2012

The obesity statistics surprised and disturbed us, but one thing is clear — Cedar County residents need to get more active.

When Jon Stevens of Live Healthy Iowa on Dec. 6 flashed statistics on the overhead that a third of county residents are obese and a third are inactive, that seemed high. It seemed higher still when we learned that it is higher than the state average by 4 percent.

Here are more statistics Stevens shared to get our attention:

* Obesity and diabetes are the only major health problems getting worse

* There are at least 20 diseases and/or conditions directly attributed to being overweight

* One-third of prekindergarten, half of kindergarten-through-12th-grade and two-thirds of adults in Iowa are overweight or obese

* More than 85 percent of American workers are obese, overweight or have chronic illness

* 80 percent of money spent on health care could be saved if we exercised and established healthy diets

* The United States ranks 42nd in life expectancy

* Obese workers cost companies 42 percent more medically each year

* Obese workers incur an average of 25 percent more health expenditures

* The United States is 10 times more obese than Japan and twice the world average

However, a group of individuals from the cities of West Branch and Tipton and Hoover National Historic Site as well as West Branch Community Schools wants to get residents excited about exercise.

The school district’s interest, led by Superintendent Kevin Hatfield and school nurse Traci Fryauf, is encouraging more than any other because, next to parents, the school district frequently is the second biggest influence on helping children start healthy lifestyles.

The school in January brought in the new weight/strength training equipment for the new weight room addition at West Branch High School, and more and more children and teens are getting involved in that, which is encouraging.

We also know that a growing number of schools and communities are offering circuit training in physical education classes or recreation centers, and that, though yet unsuccessful, there is a strong interest in building a community/recreation center in West Branch.

There is another statistic Stevens shared that we find alarming: That 28 to 29 percent of obese teenagers who are still overweight when they reach 20 years old will remain obese in adulthood.

The best time to start healthy habits is when one is young. And looking at the above, especially the unnecessary costs of health care, what was once considered an individual concern is already a community concern. If we want to, collectively, lose weight and develop healthy lifestyles, it is very helpful to see people around you excited and encouraged about it as well.

To that end, we are encouraged by the dozen or so already showing interest in forming this countywide coalition. We hope to see it grow, and our waistlines shrink, as we want to see everybody get moving for their health.

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