“It is a big deal in Sampson County,” Judi Nicholson director of Clinton Recreation and Parks began. “(About) 70-75 percent of adults in Sampson County are obese or overweight; so, if there are four of you in a room, three of you are overweight.”
Sampson County Parks and Recreation director Allison Turpen interjected, “That is the highest percent in the state. Some other counties are in the red, but none are higher percentage-wise.”
The “red” areas, which total 18, Turpen was referencing can be found on the website eatsmartmovemorenc.com, where all 100 counties in North Carolina are ranked from “the worst to the not so good.”
“The lowest one (47-56 percent) still means that half of the adult population in those counties are fat; so, even the lowest percent is not good,” Nicholson explained.
“When I think of North Carolina, I think active — the beaches, the mountains and green ways. In a way (the obesity and overweight percents) are surprising to me,” Turpen said.
“Judi, what is your opinion about the state? When I think of North Carolina, I don’t think of it as a fat state. Even Asheville is what, 57 percent?” Turpen questioned.
“The entire sate is not good,” Nicholson replied. “That is the thing, and I think it is because we get home, sit in our chairs and watch TV. I think we need to turn the TV off.”
Another alarming statistic both directors revealed is that North Carolina, as a whole, is ranked fifth nationally in obesity. These figures do not include overweight citizens.
To illustrate the alarming increase over the past 18 years, Nicholson showed that in 1991, 10 to 15 percent of adults in North Carolina were strictly obese. Eight years later, it rose to 20-24 percent, and then, in 2005, it jumped again to 25-29 percent.
“See only three states were higher than that at this point. Only two states were less than 20 percent,” Nicholson added.
By 2007, the percent had increased to greater than 30 percent.
“Everyone’s time is so precious, and a lot of time we put ourselves on the back burner,” Turpen stated about the increasing rates over the years. “We need to make more times for ourselves.”
In order to “make time for ourselves,” both directors have combined forces to promote healthier living.
“I think almost everybody will agree that the easiest thing we can do is walk,” Nicholson projected.
Turpen added, “You can do it almost any time of the year ... All you need is good walking shoes.”
Both Nicholson and Turpen suggested that “little things,” like walking to get the mail every day, counting steps and challenging ones walking speed, can make a significant difference.
“It is not getting out and walking; it is the intensity. If you stroll you are only going to burn so many calories,” Nicholson expressed.
She gave the example of a 150-pound person walking for 30 minutes at a stroll, and then another example of that same person walking at a speed of three and a half miles per hour for the same amount of time.
According to her calculations, she found that the person strolling along will only burn 68 calories; however, the person walking at a faster speed will burn 129 calories.
In order to accommodate residents all over Sampson County, nine walking trials have been created at Harrells, Garland, Western District, Weeks and Royal Lane parks, Roseboro/Salemburg Middle School, Autryville Town Hall, Coharie Tribal Center and Mingo Senior Center.
In addition to the walking trails, residents are also welcomed to attend the several indoor walking facilities; however, these are limited to specific days and times.
“A lot of people will walk at the Bellamy Center where indoor walking is offered year round,” Nicholson said, adding that participants who utilize this facility mainly walk from 8:30 a.m. until noon, but if there is not a program going on walkers are welcomed at a later time.
Turpen explained that Plain View also offers indoor walking on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 until 10 a.m., and the Center for Health and Wellness’ track is open to the public Monday through Friday noon til 1 p.m. at no charge.
“The old adage is ‘misery loves company,’ but the thing is, if you get that group thing going, you have the socialization,” Nicholson voiced as a positive aspect to group walking.
“You also get motivation,” Turpen chimed in.
“It is easy to make excuses when you’re by yourself. If you know others are relying on you, then you are more likely to stay with a program,” Nicholson added.
Turpen also conveyed that a “majority of the nutrition sites have exercise programs,” such as Thai Chi and aerobics, which are offered in the form of aquatic and chair exercises to target arthritis.
“The ones at the Health and Wellness Center are free programs targeted at seniors with arthritis, but anyone is welcomed,” Turpen revealed.
“When we get water in the pool here (Royal Lane), we will offer water aerobics here, too,” Nicholson added.
Programs offered at Clinton Recreation and Parks, as well as Sampson County Parks and Recreation, include softball, basketball, tennis and soccer (these may vary upon location.)
“One of the reason for not having a lot of programs is because we don’t have a whole lot of people saying they want to do this,” Nicholson voiced.
Although the obesity and overweight statistics may not be enough motivation for some, the frightening fact that obese and over weight adults have a greater tendency to get colon cancer or diabetes may be the deciding factor to get healthier.
“When you look at Sampson County’s rate on diabetes, it is out of control,” Turpen expressed.
“Here is a helpful hint,” Nicholson offered, “If your dog is fat, you are probably fat, too.”
In order to present a “wealth of knowledge” to Sampson County residents, the Healthy Carolinians will submit columns every Wednesday that will run in The Sampson Independent and on the website www.clintonnc.com, starting next week being the first edition. The columns will include healthy eating tips, exercise opportunities and even recipes to help battle the bulge.
“People need to not just move more, they need to eat smart,” Nicholson reminded.
According to Nicholson and Turpen, the start to healthy living is realizing life’s “bad” temptations (for example chips), and getting out of the house.
For more information on healthy living see next week’s column.
Jessica Wagner can be contacted at 910-592-8137 ext.122 or reached by e-mail at email@example.com