National data no surprise to PSU obesity expert

  Monday, September 28, 2015 2:00 AM

Pittsburg, KS

National data no surprise to PSU obesity expert

On a new U.S. map issued this week, Kansas sits in the middle of a dark red swath that plunges down through the Midwest and engulfs the South. The map, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows adult obesity rates for 2014. On this kind of map, red isn’t a color anyone wants to be.

“I’m not surprised,” said Mike Carper, assistant professor in Pittsburg State University’s Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation. “This tracks pretty much along the same lines we’ve been seeing with our students.”

In this week’s study, the CDC reported that 31.3 percent of adult Kansans were obese in 2014, which it defines as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. In just a decade, according to the CDC, Kansas has jumped from 22nd on the obesity list to 13th and in 1995, Kansas’ adult obesity rate was just 13.5 percent.

Carper, who is director of PSU’s Human Performance Lab, has done extensive research on obesity. He said the most recent numbers are troubling because of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other illnesses that can be expected because of obesity.

For decades, Carper said, data has been collected on students in lifetime fitness classes at PSU. He has analyzed data collected on nearly 3,000 students since 2010, examining factors such as body mass index (BMI), waist-to-hip ratios, blood pressure, overall strength, flexibility and a number of other pieces of data that together give a picture of the overall fitness of each student.

“It’s not just that they’re putting on more weight,” Carper said, “they’re also getting less flexible and losing strength.”

A healthy diet needs to be paired with physical activity to begin to turn the obesity epidemic around, according to Carper.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Colorado, which reported the lowest percentage of inactive adults among the 50 states, also has the lowest rates of obesity, he said.

The foundations for a healthy lifestyle are built early in life, Carper said, and he worries when he hears of cuts to physical education for students in cash-strapped school districts.

“The physiological and psychological benefits of physical activity are well documented,” Carper said, “so why are we cutting that away from elementary school, middle school and high school students, so by the time they get to be a sophomore in college, they’re already at increased risk for developing diseases?”

Carper said he working with others across the PSU campus and in the community to develop strategies for increasing awareness of the need for and benefits of physical activity as well as opportunities to engage in those activities.

Each individual has his or her own unique set of real or imagined barriers to becoming more physically active, Carper said, but in almost every case, those can be and must be overcome. The alternative, he said, is not pleasant to contemplate.

For more information:

“The State of Obesity,” CDC

PSU Applied Physiology Lab




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