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Rural Americans More Likely To Be Obese Than Urban Dwellers

Does your environment have an impact on your lifestyle?  According to a new study published in the journal Rural Health, the answer is ‘yes’ as those living in the country are more likely to be obese than Americans living in cities.

As reported by ABCNews, approximately 70 million of Americans call rural areas home and face many challenges concerning their health as a result.

Christie Befort, an assistant professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center, comments on the result of the study: “The rates of obesity were much higher than previously reported based on self-report, with 39 percent of rural Americans being obese compared to 33 percent of urban Americans.”

To collect data for the study, researchers manually measured participants height and weight, doing so in person as people tend to exaggerate how tall they are and how much they weigh.

In addition to finding rural Americans to be more obese on average than urban Americans, researchers found that younger generations between the ages of 20 and 39  living in rural America are more likely to be obese than their urban counterparts. Because of changes in technology, manual labor in rural areas has decreased and young adults have less physical work to do.

Other factors contributing to the soaring obesity rates in rural America include unhealthy food options and a lack of gyms, according to Befort. A common misconception about living in the country is constant access to fresh fruits and vegetables, said Dr. Joseph A. Skelton of Wake Forest Baptist Health. “Many farms practice mom-agriculture, such as corn, and may not have access to a wide variety of vegetables,” he said.

Befort also noted that physical isolation is contributing to obesity rates in rural America. “It’s tough to get to a gym if you live outside of a town without one,” she said. “Physical activity is now needed to compensate for diet and technology. That requires cultural change because rural areas typically don’t have a culture of physical activity as leisure time.”

Obesity has become a huge problem in America, which made these findings less of a surprise. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new obesity statistics showing that 35.7 percent of U.S. adults are obese. Additionally, 12 states are now considered extremely obese.

However, there are changes rural and urban Americans can implement into their lifestyle to help them fight weight gain. Exercising does not require a gym – take the Nike commercial during the Olympics for example. Little Nathan ran on a dirt road outside of his house, proving he doesn’t need a gym to be active.

Changing eating habits can also help fight obesity. By simply eating according to our caloric needs and avoiding foods high in calories, fat, and cholesterol, we can see a change in our bodies and our health almost instantly. In short, don’t let these figures be a discouragement. Instead, let us use them to fuel change in our nation’s health.

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September 17th, 2012

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