Alabama maintains obesity rank

by Editor-In-Chief Jasmine Fleming

Many Southerners are continuing to struggle with maintaining a healthy weight, and Alabama residents are no exception.

Alabama ties with Mississippi and West Virginia for the second highest obesity rates in the country with a 35.6 percentage as of Sept. 1, according to the State of Obesity organization. They follow Louisiana’s 36.2. percent.

People are officially obese when they have a body mass index of over 30.

This condition can lead to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, some cancers, sleep apnea, hypertension, high cholesterol and asthma, said Assistant Director of Recreational Sports Glenda Richey in an email.

People in Southern states tend to have lower incomes and education, and those factors often correlate with higher obesity rates, Richey said.

“Calorie dense food is cheaper and more available in rural areas than fresh, lower calorie-dense food,” Richey said.

Most people stereotype the South as an area for fried, unhealthy foods, she said. As for being active, there’s less public transportation, so people drive their vehicles more. Also, since the South is hot and humid May – September, many people don’t like being outside, she said.

Since the 1980s, teenage obesity rates have quadrupled from 5 percent to 20.4 percent, according to the data.

Children who are obese are likely to become obese adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Richey, who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, said she was an active child.

“There were no computers, cellphones or electronic games,” she said. “We’d get bored indoors — TV had less channels, especially with kid programming. So we explored, roamed, met up with friends from blocks away, rode bikes, walked, skateboarded, jumped on trampolines and swam in our neighborhood pool or friend’s backyard pool.”

Now, safety concerns prohibit this type of outdoor lifestyle, she said.

“Obviously, now parents don’t let their kids have that kind of freedom, and children have more to do indoors,” she said.

The data also shows 25.1 percent of people age 18-25 in Alabama are obese.

Becoming healthier requires an overall change, said graduate student Kenny Chang.

“It doesn’t mean only eat right and exercise but also sleep early and wake up early,” he said. “It is about everything with your body. You have to have a healthy lifestyle.”

Students trying to reach or maintain a healthy weight can also use the Recreational Sports and Fitness Program as a resource, Richey said.

They have group exercise classes, a three-court gymnasium, intramural sports and outdoor adventure programs. They also have a weight room, personal training and nutritional advice.

Many of the programs are free, Richey said. For more information, students can reach her at [email protected]

For students who do not have access to the Student Recreational Center on a daily basis, Florence offers other options.

“I prefer going to the YMCA,” said junior Julie Heflin. “It’s more open, has more equipment and activities and it is closer to home. I don’t feel safe traveling at night to come to the SRC.”

Other nearby locations include Anytime Fitness and Downtown Fitness.

When it comes to working out and eating right, Chang said to remember the end goal.

“Once you decide to do it, do not quit,” he said. “Once you start thinking to quit, remember why you started. It is not going to be easy, but it is going to be worth it. Life is hard, but you only have one lifetime, so you should do anything you want even it is really hard.”

Many Southerners are continuing to struggle with maintaining a healthy weight, and Alabama residents are no exception.

Alabama ties with Mississippi and West Virginia for the second highest obesity rates in the country with a 35.6 percentage as of Sept. 1, according to the State of Obesity organization. They follow Louisiana’s 36.2. percent.

People are officially obese when they have a body mass index of over 30.

This condition can lead to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, some cancers, sleep apnea, hypertension, high cholesterol and asthma, said Assistant Director of Recreational Sports Glenda Richey in an email.

People in Southern states tend to have lower incomes and education, and those factors often correlate with higher obesity rates, Richey said.

“Calorie dense food is cheaper and more available in rural areas than fresh, lower calorie-dense food,” Richey said.

Most people stereotype the South as an area for fried, unhealthy foods, she said. As for being active, there’s less public transportation, so people drive their vehicles more. Also, since the South is hot and humid May – September, many people don’t like being outside, she said.

Since the 1980s, teenage obesity rates have quadrupled from 5 percent to 20.4 percent, according to the data.

Children who are obese are likely to become obese adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Richey, who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, said she was an active child.

“There were no computers, cellphones or electronic games,” she said. “We’d get bored indoors — TV had less channels, especially with kid programming. So we explored, roamed, met up with friends from blocks away, rode bikes, walked, skateboarded, jumped on trampolines and swam in our neighborhood pool or friend’s backyard pool.”

Now, safety concerns prohibit this type of outdoor lifestyle, she said.

“Obviously, now parents don’t let their kids have that kind of freedom, and children have more to do indoors,” she said.

The data also shows 25.1 percent of people age 18-25 in Alabama are obese.

Becoming healthier requires an overall change, said graduate student Kenny Chang.

“It doesn’t mean only eat right and exercise but also sleep early and wake up early,” he said. “It is about everything with your body. You have to have a healthy lifestyle.”

When it comes to working out and eating right, Chang said to remember the end goal.

“Once you decide to do it, do not quit,” he said. “Once you start thinking to quit, remember why you started. It is not going to be easy, but it is going to be worth it. Life is hard, but you only have one lifetime, so you should do anything you want even it is really hard.”

Students trying to reach or maintain a healthy weight can also use the Recreational Sports and Fitness Program as a resource, Richey said.

They have group exercise classes, a three-court gymnasium, intramural sports and outdoor adventure programs. They also have a weight room, personal training and nutritional advice.

Many of the programs are free, Richey said. For more information, students can reach her at [email protected]