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Governor's Column - Get 2014 Off to a Healthy Start

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By Governor Mary Fallin

With the holiday season behind us, it is a good time to refocus our lives and reevaluate our goals. At the beginning of every year one of the top resolutions for many people is to lose weight, get in shape and live healthier lives.

Change can be difficult and at times seem nearly impossible, but committing to change is important for the sake of our families, our longevity and for our wallets. Bad habits can contribute to a shorter life expectancy and can needlessly drive up the cost of medical bills and health care for everyone.

The good news is -- Oklahomans have begun to take notice and we are starting to see the needle move in the right direction, and our citizens are becoming healthier.

Looking back at last year we made major strides in improving our overall health as a state. Smoking rates of adults decreased from 26 percent to 23 percent; at the Capitol we opened our new fitness facility; and in last year's budget we included more money to support prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment initiatives to help citizens overcome the challenges of substance abuse and addiction.

Furthermore, after issuing an executive order banning smoking on all state property, I was proud to sign legislation into law making the ban permanent.

To take it one step further, I recently issued an executive order banning all e-cigarette products from state property. One of my top priorities as governor is to protect the well-being of our citizens, and e-cigarettes and "vaping devices" contain addictive properties, like nicotine, and emit chemicals that are harmful to people who choose not to use them.

Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1.78 million children and teens in the U.S. used e-cigarettes in 2012, many of whom started using e-cigarettes because of the accessibility and variety of designs and flavors.

The CDC also states that about 90 percent of all smokers begin smoking as teenagers, so it is vital that we keep our young people from using or experimenting with any tobacco product.

Oklahoma's smoking rate remains high and continues to be one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the state. Despite our recent efforts, we continue to rank in the top 10 states that with the highest smoking rate. This has to change.

Improving the health of our citizens and state continues to be a top priority for my administration and I will do everything I can to continue to help Oklahomans live longer, more prosperous lives.

I am proud to say our initiatives are working and we have seen our overall health indicators go from 49th in the country to 44th. However, we still have a lot of work to do.

In Oklahoma, obesity remains high at 32.2 percent of adults while 28.3 percent are physically inactive. That causes a myriad of problems ranging from Type-2 diabetes to a shorter lifespan.

So, how do we get healthier?

It starts with a personal commitment to living a better life. It can begin with simple choices like making the decision to go on a run after work rather than sit in front of the TV or computer, or opt for a salad and chicken breast for lunch instead of a burger and fries.

Below are more ways to help you get motivated and stay on track to more quality life.

Recruit an accountability partner. You are less likely to quit a routine if you have someone going to the gym and eating healthy with you.
Set attainable goals. Instead of saying you want to lose weight, start with 5 pounds and go from there.
Be active everywhere. If you have a job that requires you to sit for long periods of time, take the stairs instead of the elevator or talk on the phone standing up rather than sitting down.
Use free resources that are available. For example, if you're ready to break your tobacco habit, call (800) QUIT-NOW or visit www.ok.gov/helpline/ for free counseling.
Getting in shape or quitting a habit is hard work and sometimes takes multiple attempts. Don't get discouraged.

For more ways to make fitness part of you and your family's life, visit www.shapeyourfutureok.com.


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