City Weighs in on Staying Fit and Losing Weight

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New York City's Department of Mental Health and Hygiene has launched many efforts to combat obesity. The agency's website, which can be found by visiting is a treasure trove of information about healthy eating and free fitness programs. Here is a sample: Unhealthy eating and lack of physical activity increase the risk of obesity and associated chronic health problems, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and cancer. In New York City, 57 percent of adults and 39 percent of children are overweight or obese, and one in three adult New Yorkers has either diabetes or pre-diabetes. Obesity has increased significantly in the city in recent years-from 2002-2004, New Yorkers collectively gained 10 million pounds, and this trend continued through 2007. Obesity-related health problems account for almost 20 percent of Medicaid and Medicare expenditures.

When asked in a 2004 survey, 14 percent of New Yorkers reported eating no fruits or vegetables at all on the previous day. The majority of U.S. adults eat more than two times their recommended daily amount of salt and consume too much saturated fat. Eating more fruits and vegetables is one way to protect against many chronic conditions, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Reducing the amount of high-sodium and high-fat foods consumed can help prevent high blood pressure and heart disease.

Americans consume about 250 more calories per day than 30 years ago: about half of these extra calories come from increased consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks.

Only one-quarter of New Yorkers report engaging in physical activity 30 minutes per day, four days per week. Being physically active is important for weight management-creating a healthy balance between calories consumed and burned-and for preventing a variety of chronic conditions and diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Free Fitness Programs

Shape Up New York is a free family fitness program offered at parks sites, community centers and housing sites around New York City. Fitness classes are open to adults and children. Classes cover activities such as step aerobics, fitness walking, light weights, stretching and toning exercises.

Shape Up New York is designed to encourage the development of healthy lifestyles and help improve participant self-esteem through energizing physical activity in a non-competitive environment. The program is sponsored jointly by the City's Health and Parks Departments.

Below is a list of a few of Manhattan's Shape Up sites:

Alfred E. Smith Recreation Center

80 Catherine St.


Recreation Center 54

348 E. 54th St.


Hamilton Fish Recreation

128 Pitt St.


Thomas Jefferson Recreation Center

2180 1st Ave.


Healthy School Ideas

With over 40 percent of New York City's youth overweight or obese, it is important that schools promote healthy eating and regular exercise. Student success depends on a blend of academic skills, good health and physical and mental fitness.

Unfortunately, foods and beverages sold for fundraisers are often high in fat, sugar, salt and calories. Unhealthy food or beverage fundraisers send confusing and contradictory health messages, increase the availability of junk food in schools and teach kids to compromise their health for a profit.

Conversely, healthy food and non-food fundraisers send clear health messages and help change the school environment; increase the health of the students, school staff and parents; and help everyone make a profit.

Healthy Fundraiser Ideas

Sell produce (e.g., holiday baskets, Parent-Teacher Conference sale, concession stand, etc.)

Hold a student vs. faculty or student vs. alumni sporting event

Have an -athon (e.g., walk, dance, bike, hula hoop)

Offer evening parent classes (e.g., aerobics, dance)

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