The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Making Us Fat? Chunky Churches and Couch Potatoes

By JoshMogerman in News on Mar 27, 2011 7:00PM

Photo by: lucyinthecity
Study after study shows Americans---and especially Illinoisans---are getting more obese. And there are no shortages of reasons: but two more stepped into the limelight this week. One, a lack of activity, is a no-brainer. The other…well…a Northwestern University study blaming religion is a bit less obvious.

The Trib does a nice job of parsing new CDC county-by-county data looking at obesity and activity levels around the nation. More than a quarter of Americans are “affirmed couch potatoes, spending none of their free time engaged in such physical activities as walking, gardening or running.” Apparently, we Chicagoans are a tad more active than the typical red-blooded American, with a range of 18 (DuPage County) to 24 (Kendall County) percent of residents whiling away their days eating potato chips and watching “Dogs 101” on Animal Planet. Cook County clocks in at 23 percent inactive residents, with obesity rates up four percentage points to over 25%. Sigh.

Northwestern’s Medical School would imply that is because we spend too much time sitting in pews and praising the Lord. In a significant departure from other high profile academics at the University, a new study shows that regular churchgoers in Chicago, Minneapolis, Birmingham, and Oakland are 50% more likely to have weight problems than the heathens. The root of that connection is not yet obvious to researchers, who also note that the lessoned likelihood of smoking and drinking in religious communities help to offset the health danger.

Getting to the heart of Chicagoland’s non-heart-healthy lifestyle remains an ongoing fight. As Emanuel steps into the 5th floor of City Hall with controversial breakfast programs and food deserts in the news, it is an issue he will need to address.