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Home > Americas Fattest Cities

  Americas Fattest Cities

Call it America Under Stress. In seeking solace from the events of 2001, we've turned our backs on exercise in order to fill our fronts with empty calories. The drive-thru has replaced the driving range, bread mills labor as treadmills languish, and our basic crunch has a Nestle label.

Just check the nearest waistline. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 56.4 percent of U.S. adults are overweight. (That stat jumps to 0,5.5 percent on the male-only scale.) A hefty chunk of the population is officially obese--between 19.8 percent and 27 percent, depending on which CDC report you reference.

We can't solely blame current events: The obesity numbers have jumped 61 percent over the past decade. It doesn't help that 27 percent of us don't engage in any physical activity and another 28.2 percent aren't regularly active.

While it may seem frivolous right now to worry about your abs, there's nothing silly about taking care of yourself, especially in unsettling times. Being in fighting trim on the outside usually means you're in sound shape on the inside. After all, we're not talking bronzer and rhinoplasty here. The lifestyle changes that lead to trimmer midsections and broader shoulders boost energy and immune function and reduce your risk of insomnia, depression, impotence, hypertension, heart disease, stroke and cancer.

"Promoting healthy lifestyles should be a national priority," asserts Frank Vinicor, M.D., director of the CDC's diabetes program.

These days, public health officials have enough on their plates without having to worry about the junk food on ours. But obesity, with its myriad health risks and economic ramifications, is still an enormously important challenge. MEN'S FITNESS sounded the alarm over the nation's fitness gap when we commissioned our first survey in 1998, and with each subsequent ranking we try to inspire individuals and communities to enlist in the fight against fat. It's not about pointing fingers and it's not about looking like a magazine cover model. It's a matter of life and death.

THE COST OF FAT

An estimated 300,000 Americans die from obesity-related causes annually, and the direct costs of obesity and inactivity account for nearly 10 percent of health-care expenses.

The fat epidemic has the potential "to bankrupt our country," warns John Foreyt, Ph.D., director of the Nutrition Research Clinic at Houston's Baylor College of Medicine. "People are living longer, but we're living fatter, with chronic health problems and reduced quality of life."

If current trends continue, "half of America will be obese by 2010," says Todd Whitthorne, producer of the syndicated radio show Healthy Living With Dr. Cooper. "Corporate America has to get involved. For every dollar spent in preventing obesity and promoting fitness, corporations will see many more back in reduced health costs."

But fitness awareness must start in the schoolroom, not the workplace, says Foreyt. "We have to help adults, of course, but the future will depend on the kids, who now spend more time watching TV than they spend at school."

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