“Fat” is becoming the new normal in America. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than seven in 10 U.S. adults aged 20 and older are either overweight or obese. Rates are lower for children and adolescents but have risen steadily almost every year. So prevalent has America’s obesity problem grown that the weight-loss industry continues to expand. This year, Americans are expected to spend more than $68 billion just on programs designed to help them shed the extra pounds. The U.S. spends in total nearly $200 billion in annual health care costs related to obesity.

New findings by the Physical Activity Council suggest a need for more aggressive efforts to combat the issue. According to the report, nearly 81.5 million Americans aged 6 and older were completely inactive in 2016. Lack of physical activity is a leading cause of obesity, in addition to genetics, emotional instability and sleeplessness.

Minnesota is ranked 40th, which means we are on the leaner end. The Methodology included looking at three key dimensions:

Obesity and Overweight Prevalence

This includes looking at the percentage of overweight and obese people, children, teens, and adults, as well as projected obesity rate in 2030.

Health Consequences

This includes the percentage of adults with high cholesterol, Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obesity related death rate, and obesity related health care costs.

Food and Fitness

This includes looking at the percentage of adults eating less than 1 serving of fruits and vegetables per day, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among teenagers, healthy food access, fast food restaurants per capita, the percentage of physically inactive adults, and fitness centers per capita.

Rural areas present their own challenges. Some factors that contribute to obesity, according to RuralHealthInfo. org, are:

• Poverty

• Limited access to healthy and affordable food

• Unhealthy diet, higher fat and calories than the average American diet

• Lack of nutrition information and programming

• Limited access to obesity pre-vention and treatment services

• Fewer opportunities to be physically active

• More sedentary rural jobs

• Challenges related to community infrastructure, such as lack of sidewalks, trails, and exercise facilities

As I read through that website, I found it interesting that while the obesity rate, as well as other associated rates, like risk of diabetes, stroke, etc, were higher in rural areas, it was not a very big difference - 2% or less in all categories.

We are fortunate that Granite Falls has been taking steps to address this national problem. We chose to build a full community fitness center instead of a seasonal outdoor pool. We are working on a whitewater park. Yellow Medicine East built an award winning greenhouse, which will supplement the school lunch program as well as help educate students about food. The Neighborhood United Food Shelf is continually working to improve their equipment to help bring healthier options to those that can’t afford it. The Farmer’s Market brings fresh produce right downtown. The granite council also voted to set up a community bike rack. These may not have all been directly intended to combat obesity, but just like with fitness, every little step adds up to make a difference.

You can view the whole Wallethub report at https://wallethub.com/edu/fattest-states/16585/