- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 7, 2004


Michigan’s governor is urging residents to walk off extra pounds. The governor of South Carolina is heading up a 300-mile bike ride across the state. And in Texas, the governor is encouraging people to train for a 10K run in April.

As lawmakers nationwide consider dozens of bills to promote healthy lifestyles — from testing school students for fitness to warning restaurant diners about fat, sugar and cholesterol — several government leaders are trying to set a good example.

Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm of Michigan, Democrat, is competing against pedometer-wearing lawmakers to see who can rack up the highest number of steps during a 16-week period.

“We’ve got so many people who are fat, so many people who are smoking, so many who are not active, and that is really contributing significantly to our health care costs, not only to Medicaid, but to the private sector as well,” Mrs. Granholm said during a recent annual meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington.

About 127 million adults in the country are overweight, 60 million are obese and 9 million severely obese, according to the Washington-based American Obesity Association.

At least 15 medical conditions are exacerbated by being grossly overweight, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and liver disease, the group said. Of those diseases, obesity was directly responsible for $102 billion in health care costs.

The increasing difficulty of states to cover health care costs of low-income residents through Medicaid is part of the reason governors are encouraging their constituents to be healthier.

In January, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Republican, announced the Texas Round-Up to help get residents in shape. Program participants are training to compete in a 6.2-mile walk or run April 17 in Austin.

Gov. Mark Sanford, Republican, invited residents to join him on a 300-mile bike ride across South Carolina in his State of the State address last month. The springtime trip will start in the mountains and head to the Atlantic coast.

Several elected officials are taking their own advice about being healthy.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Republican, lost 75 pounds in the past year and wants to use his final years in office to promote health and wellness, particularly among state workers.

Houston’s then mayor, Lee Brown, lost 20 pounds and has kept it off for 2 years after the city was named the nation’s fattest by “Men’s Fitness” magazine. The city held that title for three years running before it went to Detroit in the survey this year.

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