Earlier this week, former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt and members of the Bipartisan Policy Center headed west to gather info on fitness and healthy living across the Wasatch Front to bring back to Washington, D.C.
Leavitt came with four former Cabinet Secretaries (two republicans and two democrats) and visited the Utah Oval and Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center.
As former US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Leavitt drafted National Physical Acitivity Guidelines in 2008. Now, he encourages citizens to use the fitness facilities available to them and analyzes policies that encourage a healthy lifestyle.
We caught up with Leavitt, who served as governor from 1993 to 2005, for a quick Q&A. Hereâ€™s what we asked him.
Hint: Skip to the bottom graphs to see if he has any presidential ambitions, and check out the photos of Leavitt and the team at the Oval and fitness center.
Tell me about the National Physical Activity Guidelines you drafted in â€˜08.
â€œAs you probably know, our national dietary guidelines have been retooled from being a food pyramid to a food plate, showing how much you should eat everyday to consider yourself healthy. But our nutrition is only part of the equation, and fitness is part of the formula for healthy living. So, we created Physical Activity Guidelines. Theyâ€™re a counterpart to the food and nutrition guidelines and tell how much activity is necessary. An adult needs 30 minutes of exercise everyday, and a child up to 60. The guidelines are more complex than that, but those are two recommendations.â€
What do you do to get your 30 minutes per day?
I talked a bit about that this morning. I do a fair amount of walking, and sometimes Iâ€™ll do that in airports when Iâ€™m traveling. Iâ€™ll get there early and walk up and down the concourse. When I get the chance, I also use an elliptical machine. But you have to adapt sometimes when you donâ€™t have ideal facilities or ideal life circumstances that make it easy to hit the gym. I can walk just about any place, any time.â€
What do you think Utahâ€™s biggest health concern is right now?
Utah is like every other state; you have to acknowledge obesity and people becoming overweight. An increasing number of people are finding themselves with that challenge, and our society has begun to change in a way that makes it easy for that to occur, and that condition drives chronic disease, which accounts for 75 percent of our health care costs. Thatâ€™s why weâ€™re focusing on nutrition and exercise, because they provide a solution to a very common problem.â€
What about physical education being cut from so many schools?
â€œThatâ€™s a state by state decision, but what weâ€™re talking about today is that thereâ€™s still ways to fit exercise into the curriculum at schools. We met with leadership from Beehive Elementary, and they have a Gold Medal Mile, where students are encouraged to walk a mile every day as part of the school curriculum.â€
How well is Utah doing in terms of obesity?
â€œUtah is a relatively healthy state, but we still have a problem and we can still improve. We measure health one state at a time, but it only matters one person at a time.â€
It seems to us that Utah has an interesting dichotomy. Weâ€™re known for our world-class outdoor recreation, but we also have a very large obesity rate. Whatâ€™s going on right now to bridge that gap?
â€œI think itâ€™s a very a unique Utah circumstance. We have great places, we can experience these great places, we can recreate, so why donâ€™t we use them more? I donâ€™t think weâ€™ll find the magic solution to it, but weâ€™re trying to find encouragement for people to do what they should do to stay healthy.â€
Do you think itâ€™s more difficult for people with lower-incomes to achieve the same level of fitness as people with higher incomes?
â€œThis is something that goes for people of all incomes; you canâ€™t buy your way to health.â€
Utah is getting a lot of political face time lately. Do you have any ambitions to run for another public office?
â€œI have had a great career in public service, but I donâ€™t have any current plans. Of course, you can never say never.â€
If he asked you, would you be Huntsmanâ€™s running mate?
â€œThat wonâ€™t happen. I do plan on being very heavily involved in Mitt Romneyâ€™s campaign, but just as a citizen.â€
Mike Leavitt exercising with kids from Beehive Elementary.
Dan Glickman tests out the hula hoops with Beehive Elementary students.
The cochairs meet Olympic short track speed skating athletes like Shani Davis.
Touring the Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center