Armed with step counters, calorie charts and a $500,000 federal grant, nutritionists at the University of Tennessee are attacking the state's obesity problem.
Rep. Zach Wamp announced Tuesday the federal earmark for Tennessee on the Move, which is designed to inform and inspire Tennesseans of all ages to take small, simple steps to maintain a healthy weight.
Walking just a few extra steps and cutting as few as 100 calories a day can make a big difference in an individual's health, Wamp said.
Wamp, who represents Tennessee's third congressional district, is co-founder of the Congressional Fitness Caucus.
"Obesity is just below tobacco in the list of leading causes of death in this country," Wamp said. "The chronic obesity increases among our young people are the worst indicator for what we will happen down the road.
"This is a matter of life and death."
Dr. Michael Zemel, head of the Nutrition Institute at UT-Knoxville, is statewide head of Tennessee on the Move. Tennessee is among the states with the worst obesity problem, he said.
"We have three core messages: move more, eat a little less, and then increase your dairy intake to help you burn some of those extra calories," Zemel said.
The addition of dairy products to the Tennessee program makes it different from the national America on the Move effort. Zemel is internationally known for his research on the role of calcium-rich food and weight loss.
UT President John Petersen said at Tuesday's announcement that UT will subsidize pedometers or step counters for all university employees across the state who want to participate in Tennessee on the Move.
The Tennessee program is part of America on the Move and is the first state to receive federal funds.