Illinois Governor Promotes Exercise And Healthier Lifestyles

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Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich urged Illinois workers to celebrate today's 14th Annual Fitness Day by exercising, choosing a healthier diet and becoming a role model of good health habits for their children. Fitness Day is part of annual National Employee Health & Fitness Day held on the third Wednesday in May. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) will host activities today to celebrate physical activity at work and at home at the offices of IDPH (535 W. Jefferson, Springfield) and IDHS (Hay Edwards 400 W. Lawrence, Springfield.)

Health experts see an alarming national trend toward growing obesity among children living in rural, suburban and urban neighborhoods. U.S. children have poorer eating habits and get less physical activity than did children in previous generations. Several factors are to blame for the growing rate of overweight and obese children including the boom of vending machines at schools offering junk food, time spent playing video games and computer time, and families opting for fast food menus that offer larger portions.

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"A majority of adults in America and almost a third of our children are not getting enough exercise. As obesity becomes more common, so do serious health problems that can reduce life expectancy and increase the risk of serious illness," said Gov. Blagojevich. "In Illinois we are working to reverse that trend and help families get active and get healthy."

In 2006, the Illinois State Board of Education adopted the Governor's proposal to ban junk food and soda in Illinois elementary and middle schools. Research shows that healthier students have high attendance rates, better behavior and test scores. And most recently, the state expanded the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) program to combat childhood obesity which brings together schools, families, and communities to teach children how to be healthy for a lifetime. CATCH is effective because healthy behaviors are reinforced through a coordinated approach - in the classroom, in the cafeteria, in physical education, at home and after school.

"We are fighting an epidemic of obesity. A recent Illinois survey shows almost 40 percent of 8-year-olds surveyed were already overweight. Children who are overweight have a greater risk of developing diabetes and other chronic illnesses that will last the rest of their lives," Dr. Arnold said, who will be on site during the Fitness Day Activities. "I applaud the Governor's commitment to improving the health and welfare of our children. By implementing programs, such as CATCH, and encouraging staff to get up and get active, we promote that physical activity and eating healthy can help us live longer, healthier lives."

"Even though we work all day, there are still opportunities to get out from behind the desk and start walking, whether it is on a break or during the lunch hour everyone can find time to walk for a few minutes everyday," said IDHS Secretary Carol L. Adams, Ph.D.

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