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Weight Watchers

State launches health initiative, focuses on inactivity.

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Instead of driving to the new doughnut shop that opened down the street, Memphians should probably walk -- or not go at all, according to a statewide program aimed at our waistlines.

Tennessee on the Move (TOM), launched earlier this month, is the latest health promotion program sponsored by the federal government. As a spinoff of the national campaign, America on the Move, TOM encourages healthy eating and active lifestyles, both of which are lacking in Memphis and other metropolitan areas, said TOM representative Siri-Datar Khalsa.

Based on statistics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the state's obesity rate of 24.6 percent is higher than the national average of 22.2 percent. Memphis' rate is even higher -- 27.5 percent -- garnering a 20th position (up from 21st in 2003) on Men's Fitness magazine's "25 Fattest Cities" list.

Nationally, the obesity rate has more than doubled since 1990. The program is designed to stop an average weight gain for individuals of one to three pounds per year. Tennessee was granted $500,000 for the program.

As part of the effort, Tennesseans are encouraged to walk an additional 200 steps a day and decrease their caloric intake by 100, which can be as simple as switching from regular to diet sodas. Specific to the state is the third initiative, recommending inclusion of three to four servings of low-fat dairy products each day. This portion of the plan is based on research conducted at the university, said Khalsa.

Participants are encouraged to register for the program on the state's Web site, either individually or through civic and religious organizations.

"Something has got to be done to bring the [obesity] numbers down," said Khalsa. "In addition to inactivity, there is also an over-consumption of high-calorie foods and [people are] exercising less. That's the big problem."

E-mail: jdavis@memphisflyer.com

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