Adobe Stock
Obesity accounts for more than 1 in 5 American deaths alone. In fact, today, more than 70 percent of adults are considered overweight or obese.

Opioid abuse is a hot political topic this year. The opioid epidemic has become a public health emergency. Opioids killed more than 42,000 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This number is terrible and needs to be eradicated. But let me give you one more number that is mind blowing — 2.8 million. That’s the number of people who die annually from obesity related diseases.

Obesity accounts for more than 1 in 5 American deaths alone. In fact, today, more than 70 percent of adults are considered overweight or obese. More than one in three American kids and teens are considered overweight or obese, making them five times more likely to become obese or overweight adults. Ramping up the severity of obesity is the fact that it’s linked to 60 chronic diseases including cancer, Type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, and the estimated health care costs in the United States are between $147 billion to $210 billion annually.

There is no disputing the growing dangers of opioid deaths and the fact that stricter laws are needed to fight this issue. There is also no disputing the need to fight obesity as well. However, there is a difference — obesity is preventable by making a few simple changes including diet and exercise. Exercise serves as an anti-depressant, and when you exercise you feel better about yourself, you build your confidence as well as your self-esteem. And when you feel good about you, you are less likely to abuse your body.

I wholeheartedly believe in the benefits of exercise. I know from personal experience how important it can be in turning a life around. As a kid, I was overweight with a bad stutter and zero confidence. At 13, my dad bought me a set of weights, and it changed my life forever. Not only did the weights build my body, but they boosted my confidence and self-esteem. It made me a firm believer in its power. By adding physical activity into your daily life, you’ll find that it positively changes your perspective on everything. It gets your blood flowing, which helps you concentrate, improves your performance at school and keeps you both mentally and physically fit.

I’ve been helping people get fit for more than 40 years, but realized I needed to do more. To make a real difference, we need to focus on our children. So, to help motivate kids across the country to get fit and to inspire them to move each day, I created the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils, or NFGFC. Since its inception, NFGFC has delivered DON’T QUIT! Fitness Centers to elementary and middle schools in 24 states, and this year we’ll be delivering fitness centers to Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and Tennessee. Our fitness centers are financed through public/private partnerships. In short, they don’t rely on a single taxpayer dollar or government funding.

8 comments on this story

Since we began dedicating these fitness centers to schools throughout the U.S., the response from students, teachers and the communities we’ve visited has been unbelievable. Kids are excited about working out and being physically active. The benefits gained through exercise are undeniable. I’ve always said that when you give the schools the tools, amazing things will happen … and they are happening.

There is no reason that obesity levels in this country should be at an all-time high. By introducing kids to physical exercise, we can reduce childhood obesity numbers significantly while helping fight a host of other issues, including drug addiction.

Our children are our most precious resource, and when our kids are strong, the future of our country will be strong.