In March 12 Issue
Adults in Russell County get less exercise in their leisure time than adults nationwide or statewide, putting them at greater risk for obesity and related problems such as diabetes.
Surveys done by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2006 through 2008 estimate that 35 percent of Russell County adults said they had gotten no exercise in the previous month, other than what they may have gotten while at work.
Senior Health Educator Shirley Roberson at the Russell County Health Department said the latest statistics were "pretty rough" and that in the Lake Cumberland District Health Department's 10-county area, Russell County's obesity rate was at 38 percent.
"This is a situation that involves everybody," she said. "The whole community, parents, teachers, everyone needs to network."
She said by offering education on how to live a healthier lifestyle, the health department teaches the food pyramid, portion control, eating low fat foods as well as adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables.
"We need to stay away from the processed foods," she said. "Stay away from those easy to fix, easy to consume meals. We live in a fast-paced world and it is just easier and cheaper to eat unhealthy."
High-fat, high-sugar foods are cheaper and many times more eye catching they are detrimental to one's health.
As people age their metabolism also changes, but many times their eating habits do not and they continue to consume the same amount of calories as they did when they were younger.
"We do not know what norm is, we're such a fat nation," Roberson said.
She said body mass indexes for ages 25 and up in Russell County at 30 percent were higher than the state average of 27 percent.
Inactivity along with portion control are two of the main contributors to obesity and its subsequent health problems, she said.
As mentioned earlier, today's fast food society and high calorie intakes aren't helping the matter as people are tending to eat until they are beyond full. Roberson said it was wise to stop eating before you fill completely full in an effort to combat the problem and not pack on those extra pounds.
Roberson said the health department hosts clinics for expecting mothers to educate them on what foods to eat while pregnant as well as what foods to buy once the child is born in hopes of fostering a healthy lifestyle by forming good eating habits. She said nutritionists are on site to help the mothers with portion and calorie intake and how to bring up their child eating the right kinds of nutritional foods.
She also said programs at the county's elementary schools were addressing healthier lifestyles by monitoring BMI indexes of the children and promoting physical activity. By doing this, the schools are offering more active alternatives as well as helping children with low self-esteem and other issues caused by being overweight.
Statewide, 30 percent of Kentucky adults said they got no leisure-time exercise in the previous month. Nationwide, the figure was 25.4 percent, and only one Kentucky county had a lower rate: Fayette, at 25.3 percent.
Other major metropolitan areas in the state had lower rates than the statewide rate, so Kentucky's problem is mainly rural.
The problem is worst in Appalachian Kentucky, which includes Russell County. The 23 counties with the highest rates of inactivity are all in the area served by the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Research shows a lack of physical activity often leads to obesity and diabetes, which the survey shows are also major problems in the vast majority of the state.
Obesity and diabetes are not only risk factors for several serious health conditions, including cancer, heart disease and stroke, but they are also costly. The average annual medical costs for an obese person are $1,429 more than for someone who weighs a normal amount, CDC numbers show.
The results are based on the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which is an ongoing telephone survey. People were listed as physically inactive if they answered "no" to this question: "During the past month, other than your regular job, did you participate in any physical activities or exercises such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening or walking for exercise?" Three years of data are used to compute each year's results.
County figures are subject to error margins depending on the size of a county and its sample in the survey.
Error margins are usually expressed in terms of a 95 percent confidence level, meaning that in 19 of 20 cases if the entire population were surveyed, the result would be within the range created by the error margin.
In Russell County, the range of adults with no physical activity is 28 to 43 percent. The most likely figure is 35 percent. To learn more about what you can do to combat obesity and live a more active lifestyle, contact Roberson at the health department at 270-433-2181.
Some information for this story was provided by By Tara Kaprowy of Kentucky Health News, a service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky and funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.