Local group's goal: Making a healthier, happier Polk County - FOX 13 News

Local group's goal: Making a healthier, happier Polk County

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LAKELAND (FOX 13) -

Building a healthier Polk County – that's the vision for one local community group.

A recent Gallup poll ranked the area 7th in the country for obesity. Nat West is trying to change that statistic.

"We just need to do something about this because obesity affects so many other illnesses as well, like diabetes, heart disease, so we thought this was the one to tackle," West said.

The sooner people learn about it, the better. That's why schools like Garden Grove Elementary are taking part in the new program and revamping physical education.

Luisa Myer teaches her students that exercise can feel good and is fun.

"They're outside in the sun, being active, getting their heart rate up," she said. "Building flexibility and strength, all of these areas help students academically, and they keep a better attitude toward themselves."

Better self-confidence also leads to better grades. Studies show that physical activity improves brain activity.

"If we can get kids moving for at least 20 minutes and get their heart rate up to 70 to 80 percent maximum, they will clearly be better students," West said.

"Building a Healthier Polk" is not just focusing on kids. They are also pushing for more bicycle and jogging trails and free family fitness days downtown.

"You don't need a fitness center to walk, to ride a bike, to get out in the community," West said.

He admits eating healthy and staying fit isn't an easy task, but the results are well worth it.

"Clearly those of us that do it feel better and feel like we are impacting people more positively by the way we feel, so we just want to encourage everyone to make healthy choices" West said.

The goal is that a change of habit today will be a lifestyle change tomorrow.

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