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Editorial - Survey says we aren't getting any thinner

So North Dakota, how do you feel you're looking these days?

A new survey reported Thursday by the Associated Press says we're more obese as a state and have climbed above the national average percentage of obesity among adults. A random telephone survey last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 27 percent of adults in North Dakota are obese. That's up from 25.4 percent in 2006, and a full 10 percent more than 1997, our state Health Department reported in the AP article.

"I would say it's been a steady rise," Karen Ehrens, a registered dietitian and consultant to Healthy North Dakota, a group working around the state to prevent disease, said in the AP story.

Some factors in the rise may include cold weather makes it more difficult to find fresh fruits and vegetables in the winter. Work places that make it more difficult to make healthy choices also are a consideration, Ehrens said in the article.

She references a number of programs have been started in schools to promote healthier lifestyles to create good habits while we are younger. But she said additional dollars would help.

"The Health Department has done things to make it a priority, but funding has not been identified to support it," Ehrens said.

In southwestern North Dakota and Dickinson in particular, we are extremely fortunate to have the very affordable West River Community Center outside our front door. The community center offers opportunities for exercise to meet most every need, including cardio and weight equipment, free weights, two hardwood basketball courts, a multi-activity gym, a three-lane, ninth-mile walking/jogging track, three racquetball courts, two indoor tennis courts, two exercise class rooms scheduled with a never-ending list of classes, and of course the aquatics center that includes a zero-entry leisure pool with two water slides and a lazy river for water aerobics and a separate eight-lane competitive pool for lap swimming.

We are very fortunate to have outdoor walking and biking opportunities within and immediately outside Dickinson. We also have some of the best outdoors recreation opportunities to be found anywhere when you include Patterson Lake and the Dickinson Dike immediately outside the city, and to the west Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the national grasslands.

We have heard countless stories of individuals who have regularly used the community center facilities and have lost tens of pounds thanks to a regular exercise routine. The community center also has taken a more formal approach to assisting us in developing and maintaining formal exercise programs by hiring trainers.

The truth is, there are ample opportunities for us to be in the best physical shape possible, which we all know goes a long way to reducing our risks for serious health issues. What's required is a decision by us to make it a priority to get healthier and live longer.