Friday, March 07, 2008

Culver Takes Lead To Lighten Up Iowa

As a tight end for Virginia Tech University in the mid-1980s Gov. Chet Culver had what he called a “fighting weight” of 220 pounds.

Now, at age 42, as the Democratic governor travels the state, imploring grade school students and senior citizens and everyone in between to lose some fat, Culver admits that his own frame isn’t what it used to be when he was running pass routes for the Hokies.

Is he near 220 pounds?

“Not there quite yet,” Culver said in an interview with Iowa Independent and the Carroll Daily Times Herald.

That’s why the governor was up at 4:30 a.m. Thursday working out before a full day of stops in western Iowa, including one at the Carroll Recreation Center, to promote his “Working Today for a Healthier Tomorrow” initiative.

“I think symbolically it’s important to get out front on these things,” Culver said.

He plans to improve his muscle-body fat split and not worry so much about being a slave to the scale, Culver said.

“I do want to get my body fat down.” Culver said.

In Carroll, Culver visited the Rec Center’s Cool Kids program and talked up fitness with the children in the after-school program.

“One of the things we’re really encouraging young people to do is exercise more,” Culver said. “A lot of young people are becoming heavier and heavier, and it’s a concern.”

Culver said that in 1998, 26.5 percent of Iowa children ages 2-5 were overweight or obese. That number was up 6 percent to 32.5 percent overweight or obese children in 2006.

He noted that Lt. Gov. Patty Judge pointed out in a conversation with him that comparing school or sports-team photos from the 1980s with today shows the remarkable increase in weight among kids in just two decades.

Speaking in the exercise room at the Carroll Rec Center, as members put in miles on tread mills and bikes behind him, Culver complimented Carroll on having top-of-the-line facilities for exercise.

“You guys are doing great things here in Carroll,” Culver said. “This has to happen across the state.”

There are three chief elements of the governor’s fitness push.
First is the Governor’s Wellness Bill (Senate Study Bill 3225 and House Study Bill 728). This bill includes the Iowa Healthy Communities Initiative Grant. The grant program will provide local communities funds to help transform the existing culture into a culture that promotes healthful lifestyles and leads collectively, to a healthier state.

“Our goal is to create the healthiest state in America,” Culver said.

In 2000, State Health Insurance Premiums cost $148.7 million. In 2008, the premiums cost $315.6 million, an increase of $166.9 million over eight years. Insurance premiums are projected to cost $420.1 million in 2012.

This bill also establishes the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Nutrition. This 12-member council will consist of health care and nutrition professionals, educators and other experts.

Second, the governor is backing the Healthy Kids Act (Senate File 2279). This bipartisan bill calls for the development of nutritional content standards for any food sold on school grounds and creates a Nutrition Advisory Panel to help develop those standards.

The governor also supports a State Employees Wellness and Disease Management program to ramp up fitness and health activities for state employees in a plan financing through insurance premiums.

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