Everyone knows that obesity is a significant problem in the United States. What may be less well known is that individuals in the South experience higher rates of obesity than those in other regions, and that African Americans experience the highest rates of all. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), roughly one-third of all adults are obese. In Arkansas the number stands at 34.5 percent – only surpassed nationally by Mississippi (at 34.6 percent) and Louisiana (at 34.7 percent). Nationwide, 47.8 percent of African-Americans are obese. With that stated, let’s define obesity, examine how it affects us, and what (if anything) can be done to turn the tide.
Obesity is not a few extra pounds; it is the state of being well above one’s optimal weight. The National Institutes of Health define it as being at or above a BMI (body mass index) of 30. Research shows that as people become obese, their risk increases for developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, arthritis, high cholesterol, colon cancer, and breast cancer.
The primary causes of obesity are an inactive lifestyle and a lack of energy balance. Energy balance is simply a term used to indicate the difference between the calories we ingest (eat) and the calories we expend (through metabolism and activity). If there is no difference our weight remains stable. If the difference is positive, we are ingesting more calories than we expend and our weight increases. If the difference is negative, our caloric expenditure is greater than our caloric intake and our weight decreases.
“Calories in versus calories out” is a fitness industry catchphrase. The JRMC Wellness Centers are built around “calories out”. We strive to give our members access to varied and (hopefully) interesting ways to expend calories, including RPM, interval training on a treadmill, BodyStep classes, strength training with free weights, and much more.
However, the calories we burn outside the gym count as well. You can benefit from movement that is not vigorous enough to be called a workout – things like taking the stairs rather than the elevator, washing dishes by hand, utilizing a more distant restroom at work and standing when talking on the phone. An “old school” way of monitoring this activity is a pedometer, which measures how many steps you take during a day. The new personal activity trackers can be paired with a companion web account and mobile app, and can monitor caloric expenditure, sleep time, calorie consumption, heart rate, blood pressure, and more.
At the end of the day, there is encouraging news! Studies indicate that between 1980 and 2010 the prevalence of obesity in U.S. adults increased by about 50% per decade, but we may have seen the peak. Data released in 2013 shows the obesity rate of 34.9% in 2012 was actually down from the 35.7% seen in 2010. It’s a small number, and its too soon to determine what caused the drop or whether the trend will continue. What we do know (and have always known) is that we control our destiny … one bite and one step at a time!
The JRMC Wellness Centers, located in Pine Bluff and White Hall, offer a variety of fitness options for all ages and interests. Free weights, machines, cardio equipment, personal trainers and a full schedule of Les Mills classes are available at both facilities. For more information call the Pine Bluff (541-7890) or White Hall (850-8000) facility.