Feature Article - November 2006
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An Exercise In Creativity

Fitness programs that lead the pack

By Stacy St. Clair

ust like President Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty in the 1960s and President Ronald Reagan led a war on drugs, it's time—past time, actually—for America to unleash a war on obesity.

Recreation managers are on the front line of this arduous effort. It won't be an easy task, however, given new reports that show a dramatic increase in overweight adults throughout the country.

According to the Trust for America's Health, adult obesity rates continued to rise in 31 states over the past year. The growth reflects a significant jump in obesity in the past two decades. The latest data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that 30 percent of U.S. adults 20 years or older—more than 60 million people—are obese.

But it's not just an adult problem. The percentage of overweight young people has tripled since 1980. Among children and teens ages 6 to 19, an estimated 16 percent—more than 6 million—are overweight.

The risks associated with being overweight are well documented and extremely serious. The condition can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, among other complications. Obese adults are also more susceptible to some types of cancer, including endometrial, breast and colon.

So, it's no exaggeration to say that recreation managers who can entice people to work out could be saving lives. Winning this war, however, will take more than just a willingness on the fitness industry's part. It's going to require imaginative programs that offer participants a fun time, in addition to a sound workout. Such lofty goals can be accomplished with niche programming that caters to participants' needs and abilities.

We looked around the country and found four wonderful success stories. These classes and fitness regimens have fired the first volleys in the war against obesity. Their innovations and energy should serve as an inspiration for all of us to enlist.