Statement on Physical Activity and Nutrition

Adopted by the Governing Board, NC Council of Churches, December 6, 2010

The Issue

The issue of overweight and obesity[1] has been well-publicized in recent months.  In the United States, more than 23 million kids (nearly one-third) are overweight or obese.  In North Carolina, 65%[2] of adults and 36% of children and youth age 6-17 fall into one of these alarming categories – alarming because of the adverse effects on one’s health resulting from carrying excess weight as well as the financial impact on the individual, his/her family, employer and the overall health care system.

The rapid, widespread increase in overweight and obesity rates points to lifestyle changes, not genetic factors, as the primary cause.  According to US health officials, adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 or more days per week, while children and teens need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day or most days.  It is also recommended that we eat 1-2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables per day based on our gender and age.  However, data show that we are not meeting the mark. In NC, 56% of high school students, 45% of middle school students and 56% of adults do not get the recommended amount of physical activity, and only 22% of adults and 15% of high school students are consuming the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.  As a result, NC is ranked the 10th most obese state in the nation for adults and the 11th most overweight and obese state for children.

Annually, an obese person will amass medical costs that are 37% higher than their healthy weight counterparts or $732 more per obese person, per year.  However, simply measuring the financial costs of not maintaining a healthy weight does not fully represent the problem.  An overweight individual is also at increased risk for a number of different health problems – heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, hypertension, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, osteoarthritis, infertility and depression. Even more disturbing, for the first time in two centuries, the life expectancy of children in the US is predicted to be lower than that of their parents due to increased obesity rates.

Why People of Faith Should Care

As Christians, we follow as Lord and Savior one who is referred to as the Great Physician; one who heals the sick, guides the lost and liberates the oppressed.  Our scriptures teach us to care for our bodies as the temple of God and to set a good example for others to follow.  When people of faith get the recommended amount of exercise and eat healthy, well-balanced meals, we maximize our ability to witness to and serve the community.

One of our greatest responsibilities as Christians is to love our neighbors as ourselves – to care for the needs of our community.  Each year, thousands of North Carolinians die of preventable diseases, often caused by poor diet and physical inactivity.  Through our love for people, the Church can make a difference.  We have an opportunity to improve the lives of individuals who sit in our pews each Sunday – individuals who seek to improve their lives but may be unaware of their health risks or how to address them.

As moral leaders, the Church must be first partakers of this message of health and wholeness and support the efforts of public health leaders to reverse the trend toward overweight and obesity through clear and accurate messages, effective programs and strong legislation.

Recommendations

The North Carolina Council of Churches – inspired by our religious call to care for our bodies, the temple of God and to love our neighbors as ourselves – encourages the following:

For congregations:

Nutrition:

  • Serve water and healthier food items, including fruits (with no added sugars) and vegetables (not fried), at events.
  • Use local produce whenever possible.
  • For guests in your home, including the pastor, serve healthy foods and beverages.
  • Encourage congregants to practice portion control[3].
  • Provide children and youth with healthy snacks at youth events.[4]
  • Encourage healthy eating through regular communications (e.g., sermons, church bulletins/newsletters, posters, etc.).
  • Adopt church policies related to healthy eating. (For example, serve water as a beverage option at all events.)
  • Offer cooking demonstrations or workshops to promote healthy eating.
  • Sponsor a community garden and/or farmers’ market.

Physical Activity:

  • Encourage physical activity through regular communications (e.g., sermons, church bulletins/newsletters, posters, etc.) and publicize physical activity opportunities in the community.
  • Form a sports league, walking/exercise group or other organized group that promotes physical activity.
  • Adopt church policies related to physical activity.  (For example, dedicate 10 minutes to physical activity in every adult and youth class lasting one hour or more.)
  • Build an environment to promote physical activity – e.g., hiking/walking trail, fitness station or ball field.
  • Allow the use of already-existing facilities for physical activity by parishioners and community members.

For legislative action:

  • Support funding for evidence-based obesity prevention programs.

Nutrition:

  • Require that all foods offered in schools and daycare centers be healthy.
  • Provide the funding to support child nutrition programs.
  • Create nutrition standards for foods sold in state government buildings.
  • Ban advertisements of unhealthy foods and beverages in state government buildings and schools.
  • Support restaurant menu labeling.

Physical Activity:

  • Promote the implementation of quality, comprehensive Physical Education statewide.
  • Create environments that allow North Carolinians to be physically active where they live, work and play by promoting neighborhood sidewalks, bike lanes, safe playgrounds and employer incentives to promote worksite wellness.
  • Develop advocacy toolkits for grassroots efforts to create strong physical activity legislation.

Citations available upon request.


[1] Overweight and obesity are defined by one’s Body Mass Index (BMI) – weight in kilograms/height in meters2.  An adult age 20 years or older with: a BMI less than18.5 is considered underweight; a BMI of 18.5-24.9 is considered normal weight; a BMI of 25.0-29.9 is considered overweight; and a BMI greater than or equal to 30.0 is considered obese. The weight status of children and teens age 2-19 is determined by first calculating their BMI and then plotting it on a BMI-for-age growth chart to obtain a percentile ranking.  For assistance in calculating your own BMI or that of a child, see the BMI calculators provided on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/.

[2] All percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.

[3]Your recommended daily servings are based upon your age, gender and level of physical activity.  For more information, please visit the US Department of Agriculture online at: www.mypyramid.gov.

[4] Please visit the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program online for ideas on healthy beverages and snacks to serve at youth events: http://www.healthiergeneration.org/schools.aspx.

North Carolina Council of Churches North Carolina Council of Churches

The Council enables denominations, congregations, and people of faith to individually and collectively impact our state on issues such as economic justice and development, human well-being, equality, compassion and peace, following the example and mission of Jesus Christ. Learn more about our work here: www.ncchurches.org/about

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