BY MARY FALLIN
It’s the beginning of a New Year, which means that many Oklahomans have made resolutions and personal goals for themselves for 2013. A lot of those resolutions probably include plans to get in shape and become more physically active.
I know as well as anyone that a resolution made on January 1 can seem daunting by January 31. But if improving your health and the health of your families is one of your goals, let me encourage you not to give up!
Getting fit isn’t just important for our personal well being; it’s an important pocketbook issue for Oklahoma families and a vital factor in the state’s economic wellbeing. Unfortunately, we have a lot of work to do. A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that Oklahoma is the least heart healthy of all 50 states. Our sedentary lifestyle and high rates of obesity – along with poor habits like smoking – are certainly contributors to Oklahoma’s high rate of cardiovascular disease deaths.
What does that mean for Oklahomans? Obviously, it contributes to lower life expectancy and higher medical bills for those who are unhealthy. But it also drives up the cost of health care for everyone, straining the budgets of families who purchase insurance and making it unaffordable for others. Finally, lost workforce productivity costs Oklahoma businesses hundreds of millions of dollars each year, which in turn slows economic growth and reduces job creation.
Clearly, it benefits each one of us individually and as a community to reverse this trend. So how can we get started?
Improving health can actually be easier than you think. While public health experts generally recommend about 150 minutes of physical activity per week for adults, we now know that even low, modest levels of physical activity – equivalent to 10 minutes per day of walking – can prompt health benefits. Amazingly, the average American adult spends nearly 50 to 70 percent of time each day sitting, which increases the risk for developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease and dying prematurely. So let’s all resolve to be active and sit less!
At the state Capitol, we are putting finishing touches on a new fitness center, paid for by contributions from the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust and generous donations from the Oklahoma Hospital Association. The center will be open for capitol employees and lawmakers, who I hope will set an example for the rest of the state by using this new resource to improve their health. But the truth is you don’t need a fitness center, a gym membership or high-tech workout equipment to make a difference. Making physical activity a part of your day can be easier and more enjoyable than you think. The following are a few recommendations to increase your physical activity:
· Set realistic fitness goals. Instead of setting a goal to “exercise more,” be more specific: “take a 10-minute walk.” Recognize that you want to change your lifestyle for the long term; don’t focus on a short-term fix.
· Learn to exercise everywhere. No matter your setting, there’s always something to do. Find small chunks of time during the day to get moving, as long as your activity requires moderate or vigorous effort for at least 10 minutes at a time.
· Find a workout buddy who is at the same skill level as you are, so you can encourage each other.
· Identify cheap, local resources in your area, such as programs through your local schools, community center, park or recreation group, or worksite. Many Oklahoma schools are implementing shared use agreements with their communities to offer school gymnasium and other fitness resources to local citizens during school off hours.
· Implement new exercise routines – mix cardiovascular exercise with stretching and resistance training. They are all important.
· Get off the couch or out of your chair! If you sit at work, find opportunities to stand and move more during coffee breaks, phone calls or meetings. At home, turn off the television and take your family (or your dog) for a walk.
The unfortunate truth is that there is no magic pill to cure us of our physical inactivity. We must nudge ourselves into making better decisions about moving more. To get started, I encourage you to visit www.shapeyourfutureok.com for more ideas on how to make fitness a way of life for you and your family in 2013.