HBO Documentary: Walking, Biking Part of Cure for Obesity Epidemic

May 16, 2012 in Education

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.”

Urban Tulsa Weekly to Feature Oklahoma’s Health Crisis

January 6, 2012 in Complete Streets

Percent of Obese (BMI > 30) in U.S. Adults

TULSA – Oklahoma ranks near the top of a lot of bad lists. Our state is currently ranked 7th in the nation for adult obesity, and we rank #1 in adult obesity growth rate. That means we are the best at getting fat faster than anyone. Cue “Simply the Best! Better than all the rest!”

Urban Tulsa Weekly’s cover story next week, due out Wednesday, is expected to delve into Oklahoma’s Medical Crisis. Be on the lookout for this article, and as you read it, consider why Tulsa needs a Complete Streets policy that will enable us to get out of our cars and incorporate active transportation into our daily lives.

Forty Years Ago, A Warning For Pedestrians

November 16, 2011 in Walking

TULSA – More than 40 years ago, Alan Wakeman warned of the effects of the automobile on pedestrians. Wakeman proposed car-free streets in areas of London that serve primarily as destinations, places where people want to be. Rather than disrupt this space to make way for cars that were just passing through, Wakeman advocated for closing the streets of these destinations to motor vehicle traffic entirely.

Alan Wakeman’s short film “Motor Car Madness”, produced in 1970,┬ácomes to Bike Walk Tulsa’s attention via David Hembrow, a U.K.-born Dutch cyclist, whose blog “A view from the cycle path” claims Dutch people cycle more than those in other countries due to the Dutch cycling infrastructure that completely separates bikes and cars.

Circle Saves The Square?

Would pedestrian-only streets work in Tulsa? What would it be like if certain areas of downtown were off-limits to cars? The pedestrian street idea was already tried once in Tulsa with Bartlett Square at the location of 5th and Main, where the Bartlett Fountain now sits boarded up in the middle of a traffic circle as a result of being hit and destroyed multiple times by drunk drivers.

Why was Bartlett Square unsuccessful? Or was it successful? Why was it removed, replaced with a traffic circle and opened back up to motor vehicles? Did the circle save the square? Have sales for merchants in Bartlett “Circle” increased now that motor vehicles can drive through? It would be interesting to know what portion of sales for business owners in that area today come from people on foot or people who drove and parked within the boundaries of the old pedestrian-only square.

Bartlett Square Today The return of motor vehicles has obviously breathed new life into Bartlett Square.

Would pedestrian streets work in an entertainment district like the Blue Dome or the Brady District? How about Cherry Street or Brookside? What about the Pearl District?

What if Tulsa had a true bike share system with stations strategically located next to both parking areas and pedestrian-only streets so people could park on the perimeter of an entertainment district and then walk or ride a bike the last few blocks to their final destination?

Can pedestrian streets be successful in a state like Oklahoma that ranks #1 in the U.S. for adult obesity growth rate? Will Tulsans walk or bike a few blocks if they cannot park at the front door of their destination? Or are Tulsans too far gone in their sedentary lifestyles?