Last updated: August 27. 2013 5:49PM - 121 Views

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As the inaugural class of Healthy U celebrates its graduation and the 2013 class prepares for a life-changing year, a new national survey indicates that Americans are aware of the need to lead healthier lives, but they don’t agree on how to achieve that.

A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research reveals eight of 10 respondents support increasing physical activity in schools and government-mandated nutrition guidelines to help people make better food choices. Some 70 percent believe the federal Food and Drug Administration should require that restaurants provide calorie counts on their menus.

But according to an AP report, “ Just a third consider obesity a community problem that governments, schools, health care providers and the food industry should be involved in.”

Truth be told, obesity and its affects need to be addressed by communities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites obesity as a cause for higher incidences of coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancers, high blood pressure, stroke and respiratory problems. Those maladies put greater strains on health care systems as well as patients.

And from a personal finance perspective, the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity reports that those who are obese face health care costs about 30 percent higher than for people of normal weight.

Most of the poll respondents said dealing with obesity is up to individuals. No matter whether you believe government on any level should be involved in fighting for fitness, there are some simple things individuals can do to eat smarter, move more and live healthier:

• Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. That is where you find fresh fruit and produce, fresh meat and dairy products. The stuff in the middle aisles is boxed, bagged and canned — which typically means more preservatives and sodium.

• Don’t cruise the parking lot for the closest open space. Instead, park at the back and walk up. And do a lap around the interior of the store before you start your shopping. Just a little extra movement each day can add up.

• Read nutrition labels. Stephanie Fraley, health promotion dietitian at Whiteman Air Force Base and a Healthy U nutritionist, encourages people to eat “real food” and avoid products with a lot of chemicals and preservatives. In considering ingredients listed on product labels, she notes: “If your grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.”

• When watching television, use the commercial breaks to do some jumping jacks, leg lifts, sit-ups or pushups. It makes it easier to ignore all those ads for fad diets and junk exercise equipment.

As Americans continue to bicker over government’s role in fighting obesity, the battle can be won if individuals exercise the personal responsibility required to make real changes in their lifestyles for their own personal gain. It’s your body — take control and do what’s best for it.

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