One antidote to obesity: healthy living

The City of Downey has just begun the process of enrolling in the California HEAL Cities Campaign in response to national, regional, and local concerns about increasing obesity, with over half of California adults overweight or obese, and a disturbingly similar trend among children and youth.How bad is it in Downey? Well, in 2004 the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, one of the partners in the HEAL Cities Campaign, determined that 31.7% of Downey children were overweight. Using the same criteria, in 2010 CCPHA calculated that figure to be 40.1%--an increase of 8.4% in just six years. The adult data reflect the same disturbing trends. In fact just a week ago Los Angeles County Department of Public Health launched a parallel campaign to HEAL Cities, citing adult obesity rates increasing from 13.6% in 1997 to 23.6% in 2011. To clarify, though these percentages are smaller than the childhood data mentioned above, the adult statistics reflect rates of obesity, where the childhood rates demonstrate only the condition of being overweight, less extreme than being obese. The distinction can be explained by the difference in BMI, the "Body Mass Index," a now standard measuring formula for determining appropriate weight as related to height, and, to a lesser extent, age, gender, race, and activity levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your BMI is normal if it's between 18.5 and 24.9. You're overweight if it's between 25.0 and 29.9. If your BMI is 30 or over, you're obese. For example, a typical 5'9" adult would be of normal weight up through 168 pounds. At 169 lbs. that person would be overweight by this standard, and at 203 pounds, he or she would be considered obese. The adult percentages cited above, insofar as they're measuring obesity, are therefore sobering and significant. The CDC addresses these issues because it considers obesity to be a disease. Its approach to a cure, like the HEAL Cities campaign, "Let's Move," and "Walk/Bike to School Day," as mentioned previously in this column, depends heavily on active living. In fact the CDC lists seven reasons why "physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can help: * Control your weight * Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease * Reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome * Reduce your risk of some cancers * Strengthen your bones and muscles * Improve your mental health and mood * Improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls, if you're an older adult * Increase your chances of living longer" Many of these objectives go well beyond what can be accomplished simply by changes in diet alone. And two of the most fundamental activities available to most of us are walking and bicycling. In this space, we have been setting the stage over the past two weeks for why bicycling in particular is culturally and environmentally important to the City of Downey. Next week we will continue to look at the nexus between Active Living and the environment.

********** Published: October 11, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 26