We continually learn more about the relationship between regular exercise, good nutrition and good health. Deaths from such causes as heart disease and stroke to colon cancer and diabetes could be greatly reduced if people were physically active and ate a nutritious diet.
More than two-thirds of American adults and one-third of children are now overweight or obese. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which were released last week, place a stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity to improve health.
Daily opportunities to burn calories have diminished over the years. We drive, rather than walk or bicycle. Our homes and workplaces are automated. We have labor-saving devices at work and home and we spend a lot of time in sedentary activities, such as computer and television use. Inactivity often leads to being overweight and obesity, which have reached epidemic proportions in the United States.
The rate of increase in overweight young people has been even steeper than among adults. This is particularly troubling since many of the behaviors that lead to adult obesity are established during childhood. Just 10 years ago, type 2 diabetes was nearly unknown in children and adolescents. The medical community commonly referred to the condition as adult onset diabetes. Today, however, it accounts for almost 50 percent of new cases of pediatric diabetes in some communities.
It's obvious that many of us need to work at getting regular physical activity into our everyday schedule. This doesn't necessarily mean joining a gym or committing to a rigorous training routine. Any activities that fit into the daily routine that speed your heart rate and breathing, or increase your strength and flexibility are beneficial. But, wintry weather makes it a little more difficult to get the exercise we need.
Making a lifestyle change to a healthier diet and more physical activity isn't easy. It takes some time for those changes to become a habit in our lives. Having support from friends or family can help. Feeling accountable for getting exercise every day for a period of time may be a motivation.
The Walk Kansas fitness program might be just the motivation needed to make a lifestyle change to being more physically active. The program, sponsored by K-State Research and Extension, starts March 13 and lasts for eight weeks. During that time, teams of six keep track of daily physical activity and fruits and vegetables eaten. The goal of each team is to collectively log 423 miles, the distance across Kansas. That distance breaks down to about 30 minutes a day five days a week for each team member. Other physical activities also count, with 15 minutes of activity equal to one mile. It's recommended that adults eat about 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups vegetables each day.
The cost to participate is only $6 per person or $15 for a family team. T-shirts may be purchased for an additional charge. Each participant will receive nine weekly newsletters with information on nutrition and physical activity, motivational topics and updates on team progress.
This is the 10th year the program has been held in Bourbon County and some extra activities are being planned. At the kick-off event on March 12, free health screenings -- blood pressure, weight, and BMI (body mass index) -- will be offered. Those who attend will also receive a workout band, learn exercises, hear a motivational speaker and be eligible for prize drawings.
Several Walk@Lunch events are planned during the program. Individuals will gather at a central location to walk during their lunch hour, enter drawings for incentives, and receive healthy snacks.
Registration packets can be picked up at the Extension office on first floor of the courthouse and must be completed and returned by March 4 (March 2 if ordering T-shirts). The registration materials are also online at www.bourbon.ksu.edu.
Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Bourbon County. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.