A Fitter West Virginia
Happy West Virginia Day! Like many, I love West Virginia. So it's tragic, to me, that West Virginia is the most overweight state in the nation. (The depressing stats are at the bottom if you need a reminder.)
Hey - I want you all to feel good, look good and live good, long lives! In support of A Better West Virginia, and in honor of West Virginia day, let's create a fitter Mountain State. It may appear a daunting challenge, but we can do it if we work smart and work together!
Obesity is a complex, multi-factor health epidemic, requiring a comprehensive solution. Right? I'm not so sure. I contend that we don't have to make this so complicated.
According to theories put forth in Malcolm Gladwell's best-seller, The Tipping Point, change begins with a spark of action or a transformative idea (often from a maven) and spreads through communities via connectors and salesmen. The change builds momentum, gaining acceptance and attracting support, until it tips (i.e., becomes prevalent, becomes the new normal). He uses such examples as Paul Revere's midnight ride, the clean-up of crime and vandalism in New York City and the return of Hush Puppy shoes. Gladwell postulates that a group of perhaps as few as 150 people aligned around a cause, and constituted with a blend of salesmen, connectors and mavens, can affect bold transformations. He cites example after of example of tipping-point victories.
How might we apply "Tipping Point" techniques to make a fitter West Virginia?
What if ... 150 (or more) of the most connected, Web savvy West Virginians began talking about fitness? [If you are reading this article, there's a good chance you might be just such a person, by the way.] Consider the potential impact of weird, new ideas like these:
- Tweeting your workouts on Twitter (Just had a great run along the boulevard!)
- Utilizing your Facebook status update to note your fitness activities (Heading to the gym!)
- Used fitness topics as a conversation starter (Hey, have you been to the new zip line course in the New River Gorge?)
- Support fitness-minded leaders - search and follow Twitter leaders who are into fitness and health; subscribe to blogs and RSS feeds from bloggers who write about exercise, nutrition and wellness. (Check out this great new yoga blog I found.)
- Make it a personal priority--if not already--and begin advocating for fitness as a healthy lifestyle. Talking about it. Encouraging others. Inviting others to engage. (Hey, do you play tennis. Wanna play sometime this week?)
Imagine the power of 150+ visible, opinion leaders focusing on fitness! Others will take notice. It's leadership by example. It's advocacy. One by one, across social networks (both real and virtual) people will begin to think: Maybe I need to get going with this fitness thing. Behavior modeling will begin and change will occur. Powerful!
I believe that once West Virginia addresses its education and obesity challenges, everything else is easily tackled and overcome. To me, these are the two "biggies" (no pun intended). I will rely on others for educational ideas and reforms; there's already some good stuff underway.
When I turned 40 three years ago, I was 40 pounds overweight. My waist was 40 inches. My cholesterol was 240, and my blood pressure was 140-something (the top number). Not a healthy picture. Since that time, I've made some huge changes in my lifestyle with exercise, fitness and supplementation. Today, those efforts have paid off, and I will be around for many more years to enjoy my wonderful family, friends and beloved Mountain State.
While that's a happy story, it's not what's most relevant to this example. During the course of my fitness transformation, I casually, almost haphazardly began communicating about my workouts and fitness lifestyle on Facebook and Twitter--not in a zealous way, just conversational and without agenda. I did this mostly to hold myself accountable and to focus on my fitness.
This is the big surprising insight: over the past two years, I have heard from more than 30 or more people that they have been inspired and motivated by my fitness blurbs and quips. That's wonderful! Such feedback has helped me to stay focused and committed. It's an upward spiral. It's synergy. A community of enriched relationships is so powerful!
Are you ready to make this tip? I hope you'll join me!
I look forward to your comments and suggestions here or on Facebook and Twitter.
___________________________________________________________________Here are some background stats on obesity, culled from the report "Obesity: Facts, Figures, Guidelines" - WV DHHR, 2002.
Obese West Virginians are more likely than their healthy weight counterparts to have suffered a heart attack, been diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes, and/or asthma, or been limited in their activities because of back pain.
The economic costs of obesity are tremendous. The National Institutes of Health have estimated the total cost of overweight and obesity to the U.S. economy in 1995 dollars at $99.2 billion, including 39.3 million workdays lost annually to obesity-related causes.
The obesity prevalence in West Virginia has been consistently higher than that in the United States as a whole. In 1990, the West Virginia rate of adult obesity was 15.0%,
compared with a U.S. rate of 11.6%. By 2000, the state rate was 23.2%, compared
with 20.1% nationally. The obesity rate has increased in virtually all of West
Virginia’s 55 counties over the past decade.