(NOTE: Gov. Perry frequently deviates from prepared text.)
Eight days into the new year, it is not too late for millions of Texans to make an important New Years Resolution for 2004: To get in better shape by becoming more physically active.
Routine physical activity is essential to living a longer and healthier life. By exercising for merely 30 minutes a day a few days each week, Texans can reduce the odds of disease and illness, lower the cost of health care, and live more productive lives.
The sedentary lifestyle not only has ramifications for individuals that are out of shape, but society as a whole. A lack of fitness costs Texas taxpayers and businesses $10 billion each year due to increased use of the health care system and lost productivity in the workplace.
Obesity and excess weight are a $10 billion problem because five out of eight Texas adults, 63 percent, are considered overweight or obese - an alarming increase of 33 percent from just one decade ago. And this is partly because only one in four Texans participates in the recommended amount of physical activity.
Of greatest concern to me is that more than one out of three Texas children, 35 percent to be exact, are considered overweight or obese. And this week we learned of new findings from an international survey showing that the teenage obesity rate in America is higher than that of 14 other industrialized nations.
According to the Texas Obesity Task Force, if nothing is done to change poor eating and exercise habits among our children, the youngest generation is likely to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. If a single disease or illness had that kind of affect on our youngest generation, we would call it nothing short of an epidemic.
To combat excess weight and the onset of conditions like diabetes and heart disease, I am joining with fitness and health care leaders across Texas to promote the Texas Round-Up. The goal of the Texas Round-Up is to help Texans get in shape and live healthier and more productive lives through the development of a physical activity routine and fitness habits that are as part and parcel to their daily lives as reading the morning newspaper or going to work.
There are two critical aspects to this challenge. First, we have given Texans a target date to achieve the goal of greater fitness by offering them the opportunity to participate in a Fitness Festival, including a 10K walk or run on April 17 in Austin.
Second, the Texas Round-Up offers Texans a daily physical activity program that, if followed, is sure to get them in better shape over the course of several weeks or months. By clicking on the Texas Round-Up website (www.texasroundup.org), one can find a fitness program for all fitness levels: a beginner's track, an intermediary track, and a program for those who are seeking a more advanced, rigorous exercise routine. In addition, Texans can track their progress on the website by keeping their own interactive, 6-week exercise log.
On April 17, based on the participation in the 10K race and registration on the Texas Round-Up webpage, we will name the most physically active cities in Texas. So far, we have more than 50 cities competing for this important recognition.
Building a healthier Texas is one of the top goals of my administration. A healthier Texas is about much more than putting money into public assistance programs. It starts with the personal responsibility each Texan must assume for their own health.
There are dozens of ways to become physically fit. Jogging, rowing, walking, swimming, skating and biking all come to mind. But this is about more than setting aside a couple of hours each week for physical activity. It's about incorporating physical activity in virtually all aspects of our lives.
Even the most mundane, daily activities can help ensure proper fitness. Taking the stairs is often a better alternative to taking the elevator. Raking the leaves instead of using a blower is not only good for the environment, it's good for your health. Even misplacing the remote control can promote more activity by forcing you to get up to change channels. There is no better time than 2004 to trade in the remote control for something a lot better - a healthy life and a future of fitness.