21 Apr 2012

Local 5K and Campus Recreation Center offer the Community a Chance to Combat Weight Gain

Author: Eric Lagatta | Filed under: BGSU, Enterprise Story, Localizing story, Science, Health, Environment, Spring 2012, Student Contributor

By Eric Lagatta

With the increasing trend of overweight and obese Americans, many individuals can promote their own healthy weight by finding ways to be both physically active and eat healthy.

Nearly 60 million Americans are obese, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

This has been an ongoing trend that increases every year.

In 2000, no state in the U.S had an obesity prevalence of 30 percent or more.  In 2009, nine states had an obesity prevalence of 30 percent or more and in 2010, that number jumped to 12 states.  In 2010, no state had an obesity prevalence less than 20 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Karyn Smith, a health educator at Bowling Green State University, said that obesity is the second most preventable disease, behind heart disease, but can be countered by being physically active and also by being conscious of eating habits.

One of the options for physical activity she recommends to beginners is running in a local 5k.

The Couch Potato 5k run is an annual event that is in its seventh season and takes place in Bowling Green, Ohio.

View Couch Potato 5k Run in a larger map

“We came up with the 5k to encourage those who might be intimidated to try something like that to get out,” said Josh Chatfield, the director for the event.

As a physical trainer, Chatfield said he has noticed two fears in those new to exercising: a fear of being judged by others and a fear of doing the activities incorrectly.

“Our main focus with the title is to make people understand this event will make people feel comfortable in an environment they might not typically feel comfortable in,” he said.

The event attracts 250 to 500 participants a year, but Chatfield hopes to have 500 this year.

Most people run the 5k, but the event also attracts a significant amount of walkers as well, Chatfield said.

“The vast majority of participants are there just to have fun doing something they wouldn’t normally do,” he said.

There is also a 1k run for kids 9 years old and younger.  Around 60 kids usually run in this, Chatfield said.

The Couch Potato 5k Run takes place at the Wood County fair grounds on Saturday, April 28.  The proceeds go to Camps for Kids, which encourages physical activity at a young age by providing children with the means to participate in the parks and recreation programs in Wood County, Chatfield said.

The fact that many 5k runs are for a charity or a cause serves as an added motivation for those new to exercise, Smith said.

For those new to running, she recommends to start off by walking and build it up to increase jog time and decrease walk time

For the Couch Potato 5k, participants should have the goal of just completing the run, she said.

“Get out there, have fun and just feel great about meeting that goal,” Smith said.

A student walks into the recreation center at BGSU. Photo by Eric Lagatta

The recreation center at BGSU also offers students, faculty and staff a chance to become more physically active.

The center offers certified personal trainers, customized plans to suit goals, and fitness assessments such as finding an individual’s body fat percentage, Smith said.

“If their goals is weight loss, they’ll get a nice balance between cardiovascular and strength building,” she said.

Those who go to the rec center at BGSU have the option for one-on-one training or they can make their workout more of a social event. The center offers around 30 classes a week, Smith said.

These are just two options available for an individual to become physically active and fight weight gain.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 37 percent of adults reported that they are not physically active and only three in 10 adults get the recommended amount of physical activity.

One factor that contributes to inactivity is the sedentary lifestyle that many people have grown accustomed to.

“With our environment, especially with the rise in technology, lots of people are spending more time being sedentary,” Smith said.

Whether it’s at work or at school, or just watching TV in the evening, the average American is sitting over 75 percent of the day, she said.

Many people are also busy throughout the day, so they don’t fit an exercise routine into their time, she said.

Smith has a simple remedy for this.

“Schedule it into your planner just like it was a class,” she said. “For someone who is really busy, I recommend breaking it up into increments throughout the day.”

The goal is just to get 150 minutes of exercise a week to see health benefits, she said.

Physically inactive people are twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease as regularly active people, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.  Persons who are overweight or obese are at increased risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems and some types of cancer.

Along with weight loss, exercise will help in the reduced risk of all of these problems, Smith said.

Most people are aware of the need for exercise, she said.

“It’s the actual transition, crossing the bridge of knowing and doing,” Smith said.

Smith said she recommends that people new to exercise should find an activity they enjoy doing and then stick to it.

“You need to find an activity that you’re going to sustain because that’s how you get the benefits,” she said.  “The best exercise plan is a consistent one.”

Daniel Robb, a sophomore at BGSU, remains physically active by regularly running in marathons.

Robb, who runs 40 to 50 miles a week if he’s training and 25 to 40 if he’s not, completed his first marathon in Columbus, Ohio when he was in high school.

“I look back at my first marathon and it was the most trying day in my life. It was and still is the hardest thing I have ever done, it is also one of the most defining moments of my life,” he said.

Through running marathons, Robb has suffered muscle cramps and stress fractures in both his feet.  He has also been carried away by medical carts.  Despite this, he said he loves the physical benefits he gains from running.

“I never get tired or winded in any physical activity with friends. My heart and lungs have never felt better. My body also feels naturally strong at all times,” he said.

Robb has been training all winter for the Pittsburgh marathon on May 6.  He also plans to run in the Tough Mudder, and obstacle race designed by the British Special Forces, next fall.

“Running and I have a love/hate relationship. I hate all of the hard work and time I invest, but I love the physical rewards and the mental sense of accomplishment. I love the fact that I can go out on any given day and be released of my worldly pressures for an hour or so,” he said.

It takes more than exercise to achieve weight-loss- a healthy diet is also important.

“It really is the balance between exercise and nutrition and people struggle with both,” Smith said.

Many people often choose convenience over health in their day-to-day lives.

“With all the options available for food, it’s easy and accessible to just go through the drive-thru,” she said.

Mary Jon Ludy, an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at BGSU said that, in addition to being quick, easy and cheap, the choice of a drive-thru may also be due to lack of options.

“There are healthy places to eat, but I think it’s hard for college students because they don’t always have the option to prepare their own meal,” Ludy said.

There is also another reason that people may eat unhealthy, she said.

“It may be perhaps because they don’t know any better,” Ludy said.

The amount of a serving varies on an individual basis according to an individual’s age, sex and weight, but a healthy diet consists of 50 percent fruits and vegetables and 50 percent grains and proteins, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Through her own research, Ludy has found a new element of a diet that may lead to weight loss- spicy food.  Eating spicy food, such as red peppers, can increase the number of calories people burn and it may make them eat less in their next meal, she said.

Ludy said she recommends that when students are shopping for themselves, they should not shop when they’re hungry, they should bring a list with them so they know what they’re looking for, and they should use cash, not a credit card, so they don’t spend too much money.

Ludy said that while these may not be drastic changes, these efforts can add up.

“A lot of small effects can make a big difference,” she said.

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