The four-part HBO Documentary “The Weight of the Nation” prescribes more walking, biking and other forms of physical activity as a cure for the U.S. obesity crisis.
Oklahoma is the seventh most obese state in the nation, but it’s number one in adult obesity growth rate. That means we are better at getting fatter faster than anyone in the country.
The HBO documentary delves into our nation’s weight problem and finds that increases in calorie consumption coupled with a lack of physical activity are the root cause. Better diets will help you lose weight, but physical activity is needed to keep that weight off long-term.
“The question is what changed in the last 30 years to make this obesity epidemic happen,” says Robert Lustig, MD, a Neuroendocrinologist with the University of California, San Francisco.
The increase of car-dependency in our communities is a major factor in the reduction of physical activity.
“We don’t walk, we don’t bike, and it’s cut off hundreds of calories of physical activity,” says Barry Popkin, PhD, an economist and Professor of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
More than 75% of Americans drive to work — a 300% increase since 1960. In 1969, 42% of children walked or biked to school. Today, more than 80% are driven to school. Currently, less than 5% of adults meet the minimum guidelines for physical activity.
“In fact, roughly one in four adults gets no physical activity at all,” says Eric Finkelstein, PhD an economist at Duke University.
“We’ve engineered physical activity out of our everyday lives,” According to William Dietz, MD, PhD, the Director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Our work as adults has been increasingly sedentary.”
Much of our sedentary lifestyles comes about from the built environment, one that prioritizes the moving of motor vehicles as fast as possible while ignoring more active modes of transportation.
Cars dominate so much of our lives that one child in the documentary who lives in a poor community with few parks nearby laments, “all these parking lots are, like, kind of the park we have.”
Karl Dean, Mayor of Nashville, is working to change his city into one that makes living a healthy lifestyle “the easy choice.”
Dean isn’t just talking either. He’s walking the walk by pouring $13 million into sidewalks. Nashville also has received $7.5 million in grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for obesity prevention efforts, building on their work of improving bike lanes, sidewalks and parks.
“We have to invest in quality of life. People want to live in a city that’s healthy, that’s clean, that’s walkable and bikeable, that’s full of places where they can exercise and enjoy fresh air,” says Dean.
“We know that to be healthier we need to eat better and exercise more. And how you make that part of the city is really the challenge.”