Creating a More Active Oklahoma
When people think of healthy states they generally think of Colorado, California maybe Oregon but typically Oklahoma doesn’t come to mind. Obesity reports frequently list Oklahoma as one of the most obese states in the nation and there is a scary number of people with type II diabetes that correlates to that number. So what are we doing about it?
I don’t have the numbers on how many people per capita exercise here in Tulsa but I can tell you that over the years I’ve personally witnessed the increasing number of people riding bikes, participants in athletic events or out on the River Parks trail exercising.
There are lots of events and organizations contributing to this uptick. Organizations like Saint Francis Tulsa Tough who are actively seeking to change people’s misperceptions about the city but are also actively trying to encourage more individuals to live an active lifestyle. And here’s the thing: They’re actually doing that. In other words they are literally inspiring people to pick up a bicycle and be active.
Look at Ginger Rose who spectated at the Friday night criterium race in 2011. Ginger was inspired to pick up her townie bicycle and begin riding it…more. In fact she will be riding the longest she ever has on a bicycle come Saturday at the Saint Francis Tulsa Tough Gran Fondo. And she’s not alone. There are stories like Michael Homan who in 2010 was inspired to trade in his motorcycle for a bicycle after watching the Saint Francis Tulsa Tough Criterium races. He quickly lost 30 pounds and proceeded to enter the following year’s Gran Fondo. He invited his family out to support him on his ride and his out-of-town sister watched as her brother achieved his cycling accomplishment. Inspired, she then went back to her hometown of Fort Worth, TX and bought a bicycle and began getting into shape and even began to race. You see where this is going, right? Saint Francis Tulsa Tough is contagious!
But an event this big needs community support in every way imaginable and they’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of it. Take ONEOK for example.
ONEOK is an S&P 500 diversified energy company and one of the state’s larger employers with nearly 5,000 employees. The company has a very comprehensive wellness program that addresses their employees’ physical, mental and financial lifestyle called Live Smart.
Robert Babcock, ONEOK’s Senior Benefits Analyst identified Saint Francis Tulsa Tough as an event that could involve every type of employee. There’s the Tulsa Townie ride which is a casual 8 mile ride on any (and every) kind of bike for those that are just starting to exercise. Then there’s the Gran Fondo which is something you have to train for but still offers various level of fitness (anywhere from 20 miles all the way up to 127 mile courses). And there are the races for those who like to compete. ONEOK has employees in all of those events, even a competitive racer at the highest level! The Live Smart team at ONEOK saw this event as an opportunity to get more employees started on a healthier lifestyle while also coming together as a team. That too is a good thing especially when you take into consideration of all the recent articles reporting that cycling is the “new golf.” But what’s especially encouraging is that ONEOK is paying for the entry fees for their employees, creating specific team jerseys and training as a group. In short, they’re not only encouraging them to be active but they’re showing them how to do it and giving them a goal.
As a community I hope more companies like Saint Francis, ONEOK and the many other sponsors of Saint Francis Tulsa Tough can encourage this type of behavior, sure it’s showing corporate responsibility but more importantly it’s creating healthier Oklahomans.
Natalie Cagle is a member of the Tulsa athletic community at large and is a Saint Francis Tulsa Tough fan.