We’d like to think this part of the state is leading the charge to get Alabamians up and active. We’d like to think we’re part of the solution. Next weekend provides more proof: The annual bicycle races return to downtown Anniston, Piedmont and Mount Cheaha, each spreading a visual message that encourages healthy, active lifestyles.
Come August, the national championship 5K road race will take place — again — on Woodstock Avenue. A national-level mountain-bike trail is being built on Coldwater Mountain. And those items are only a few of a lengthy list.
Yet, Alabama’s problem remains our problem, too.
Alabama’s statewide health crisis has reached epidemic proportions. Earlier this week, The Star’s Tim Lockette dove deep into the causes, results and long-term calamities caused by Alabamians’ bulging waistlines. Among those are frighteningly high rates of heart disease, diabetes and childhood obesity. Lifespans are shortened. Medical and insurance rates are increased. Something has to change.
Eating sensibly is a start. Vegetables and healthy meals have to replace nachos and three-cheese pizzas. (Though, there’s nothing wrong with a good pizza in moderation.)
Perhaps it is best to say it simply: Alabamians must burn off more than they put in.
Last month, a report released by the Physical Activity Council, a partnership of trade associations in sports, fitness and leisure industries, gave us pause. The council found that the number of inactive Americans increased to 68.2 million in 2011 from 67.2 million in 2010.
Jobs have moved from outside to inside. Office workers, male and female, well-paid and just gettin’ by, spend entire shifts hunched over computer screens. Suburbanization has altered virtually all of America; we don’t walk to the store or school; we drive. Usually, there is no other choice.
Thus, this toxic combination — our favorite Southern foods, the convenience of fast-food meals, the prevalence of sedentary lifestyles — has taken a terrible toll on our health. We have to change our thinking.
To this, Calhoun County is not immune; our diabetes and obesity rates are embarrassingly high. But it’s not farfetched to imagine the day when our ecotourism boom makes us an example for other Alabamians to follow. That should be this area’s long-term goal.
We suggest baby steps, not marathon strides. Exercise is tough, especially for those who’ve spent decades avoiding it like the plague. It takes commitment. Success won’t come overnight.
Treat it as you would church: invite someone to come along. Start small. Take daily walks in your neighborhood; ask your neighbor to join in. Join a health club with your best friend. Take up an active hobby — cycling, running, hiking, canoeing, walking, swimming, even team sports like basketball or softball if that’s your preference. All that matters is to get moving. Active parents are more likely to have active children.
Find something you enjoy, find someone to enjoy it with, and un-kink your body from hours upon hours of sitting at your desk or on the couch.
There’s a good chance your health will improve, but be careful. You might even enjoy it.