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FOR RELEASE: March 23, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Health Officials Ask Communities to Make Fitness A Priority

State health officials call the current risk of health problems related to lack of regular and sustained physical activity "deplorable." There are too many couch potatoes and not enough people exercising, which leads to dangerous results. Exercising sounds simple enough, so why aren't more people doing it? How can local communities get involved to find solutions to improve their community's health status through increased physical activity?

These and other health related issues will be discussed during National Public Health Week, April 3 - 9. This year's theme is Healthy People in Healthy Communities. Research shows that 84 percent of Oklahomans are at risk for health problems related to lack of regular and sustained physical activity. This combined effect of overweight and lack of exercise has resulted in the following:

  • The heart disease rate for Oklahoma is 19 percent higher than the U.S. rate.
  • The stroke rate is 11 percent higher in Oklahoma than the U.S. rate.
  • The injury rate for Oklahoma is 30 percent higher than the U.S. rate.

"We want to encourage local communities to find ways to promote physical exercise and make their communities safer and more livable," said J.R. Nida, M.D., commissioner of health. Nida said the only way to start turning things around is to involve local communities in planning prevention efforts. "Employers, teachers and parents can participate by emphasizing the importance of good health and making exercise a fun activity," he said.

Nida cited walking, bicycle riding, and swimming -- especially water aerobics for older persons who may have weight-bearing problems -- as excellent choices to improve health through regular exercise. In many communities, there is a tremendous need for new and improved safe walking and bicycle routes. This potential obstacle to expanding exercise opportunities can actually provide a positive forum for communities to advocate for building and improving walking and bike paths with the assistance of businesses, community sponsored parks and recreational programs, and civic organizations.

"Together, as partners with communities, we must think differently about our prevention approaches, coordinate our efforts, and challenge ourselves to take risks that will ultimately improve the health of future generations," Nida said. "Getting involved in a physical activity is a good place to start."

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