On a new U.S. map issued last fall, 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 the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation. “This tracks pretty much along the same lines we’ve been seeing with our students.”
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.