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For the week of July 12 through July 18, 2000

Between the couch and the potato chips

Hey, Fatso. Want to make some money? Here’s a sure-fire method: Get off the couch and go for a walk.

Think the name "Fatso" is rudely misapplied? Look in the mirror, get on a scale and measure your body fat. That’s rude.

Americans are the richest people in the world. We are up to our hips in food. We spend more on health care than any country in the world. And, we are the world’s fattest citizens.

The numbers tell the tale.

The National Institutes of Health estimate that 97 million American adults—55 percent of the adult population—are overweight or obese. Kids are getting fatter, too.

Obesity increased from 13percent of the population to 22.5 percent between 1960 and 1994, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Waistlines grew most in the 1990s.

Why? Here’s a clue: National surveys show that just 23 percent of Americans engage in light to moderate physical activity five or more times per week. That leaves most of us—the other 77 percent—somewhere between the couch and the potato chip bag.

In the midst of this national sit-in, we annually face the awful increase in medical bills and medical insurance. Businesses and families are squeezed harder every year. Government, physicians and insurance companies are bickering about who’s responsible. Patients blame them all.

It’s time to stop blaming and look in the mirror.

Overweight and obese individuals are at increased risk of developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems and certain cancers. The cost of treating obesity related disease approaches $100 billion annually, says NIH.

Hold the jelly donuts, please.

Increases in the costs of Medicare, Medicaid and health insurance produce a lot of podium pounding in Washington D.C., but little else. Good health doesn’t pay.

There are no tax deductions for fitness programs for people of any age. Physical education programs in public schools are getting the ax nationwide. Idaho’s infinitely wise Legislature, squirreled away its millions from the tobacco settlement last year instead of spending it on health programs.

When it comes to health care costs, Americans are looking through the wrong end of the microscope. Despite all the evidence, we seem to believe in the impossible—health without fitness.

If we don’t get a grip on our expanding waistlines, we will find ourselves like Humpty Dumpty. When the fat catches up with us, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will not put Humpty together again.

So, ride a bike, take a hike, do a little gardening. Do something, anything. Can’t spare the time? Too busy working or raising a family? Think again. Exercise pays. It’s cheaper than insurance, cheaper than hospital bills and a lot more fun than being in one.


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