Multnomah County health campaign gives mall-goers food for thought

Monday, 10/29/12 - 10:49 am

Shoppers at the Lloyd Center Mall are seeing signs that may change what they choose to drink during their visit. The Multnomah County Health Department has posted signs indicating how far they’d need to walk to burn off the calories in one soda, sweetened tea or frozen caramel coffee drink.

The signs are part of a new It Starts Here education campaign to call attention to the amount of physical activity, like walking, needed to burn off the extra calories in one sugary drink. It would require walking from Washington Park Rose Garden to the Rose Garden Arena, for instance to burn off one 20-ounce soda.

Research shows that the rising consumption of sugary drinks -- like sodas, sports and energy drinks, and juices with added sugar -- is a direct cause of obesity. Extra calories from sugary drinks can lead to extra weight and increased risk for health problems like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

In Multnomah County more than half of all adults are overweight or obese. Children are overweight too.

“Nearly one in four children in our schools is overweight or obese," says Lillian Shirley, director of Multnomah County Health Department. "Many of us are simply not aware that sugary drinks are a large source of empty calories with no nutritional value.”

According to the Mayo Health Clinic, a 160-pound person will burn 256 calories an hour walking three miles per hour. So it takes walking approximately three miles to burn off the 240 to 270 calories of a 20-ounce soda. It’s the same for a 23-ounce sweet tea. And someone would have to walk 5.5 miles to walk off the extra calories in a 24-ounce frozen caramel coffee drink.

The campaign uses well-known Multnomah County landmarks to illustrate walking distances, including the three miles between the Washington Park and the Rose Garden Arena. The Fremont Bridge to the Ross Island Bridge is another three miles. A 5.5 mile walk would take someone from Mississippi Street in North Portland to Hawthorne Boulevard in Southeast or from Blue Lake Park to Downtown Gresham.

Shoppers can also scan codes on the table signs using their phones to link to a YouTube video. The video highlights one of the routes and encourages watchers to drink water, lowfat milk or unsweetened tea instead.

The effort is part of the It Starts Here Campaign for a Healthy Active Multnomah County, which fights obesity and chronic disease by supporting community changes that make healthy eating and active living available to everyone in Multnomah County.

For more information:

It Starts Here Campaign website