A generation ago, parents told their children to "go outside and play" and they did. Today, it is different, and the fruit of those differences is showing up in the abysmal rates of childhood obesity. These habits frequently carry over into adulthood. While comparably inactive lifestyles and poor diets can be reversed and turned into active lifestyles and healthy diets, this is easier said than done.
Prevention is usually much less expensive than treatment, and The William K. Warren Foundation is looking for proven, cost-effective ways to empower people to live healthier lifestyles. Cycling seems to be one of those ways. It is already the most popular and the second most frequent outdoor activity among youth in America.* More than 70% of all U.S. children age 5-14 ride a bicycle occasionally.** But, the frequencies are still too low and as the cohort expands to include all Americans, studies show that less than 2% of all Americans cycle daily.***
So, how can the familiarity of cycling translate into more frequent use by more people where they will “go outside and play”? The Tulsa Townies and Saint Francis Tulsa Tough are two ways that the Foundation is working with like-minded organizations to reintroduce Oklahomans to the joys and health benefits of cycling.
*Outdoor Foundation, 2013
**Clinical Pediatrics, 2009
***American Journal of Public Health, 2011
In the USA, 22.9% of adults indicated that they had not participated in any physical activities outside of work during the past month. In Oklahoma, it was 28.3%.* Sedentary lifestyles are at dangerous levels, which threaten Americans’ quality of life.* The reasons for the sedentary lifestyle choices vary, but the preventable nature of the illnesses caused by sedentary lifestyles is a call to action.
A challenge seems to be how to make healthy lifestyles more pleasurable than the alternative of being sedentary. This is why The William K. Warren Foundation joined with race organizers and other local philanthropies to try to create a fun, world-class cycling event in Tulsa.
*United Health Foundation, 2013
Oklahoma is one of the states that has been successful in reducing rates of sedentary behavior since 2009 (28.3% in 2013 versus 31.5% in 2009*). “These statistics need to be understood in the context that even minimal action can produce meaningful results, as evidenced by a recent study that showed that moving from sedentary to mild activity increases life expectancy by 1.8 years.**
In the base case, the Saint Francis Tulsa Tough is a fun event attracting 4,700 riders from 25 different states and 7 countries, attracting over 50,000 spectators, generating over $1.5 million per year in economic impact, and which has provided free bicycles to hundreds of local youth.*** The best case is that it is raising Tulsa’s national profile as an attractive and livable area while promoting healthy, active lifestyles to a needy population.
*United Health Foundation, 2013
**United Health Foundation, 2013; PLOS Medicine, 2012
***Tulsa Tough 2013 Data
"Keep it up! I had the best weekend ever!!!! The Gran Fondo courses were excellent, and the crybaby hill experience was one I'll never forget and look forward to year after year. I'll be back for sure! Tulsa is a great city!!"
"Jeff" – Texas
"I live in Dallas and this was my second year for Tulsa Tough, riding the Gran Fondo both days and enjoying the festival and races after. My friends and I had so much fun last year that it wasn't even a question of whether or not to come back, and this is quickly becoming my favorite weekend of the year. Last time, we drove back to Texas on Sunday but didn't hesitate to stay an extra night this time. The host hotel was in a great location. Our group of friends added two people to the trip this year and hopes to eventually take over the event – ha ha ha!!!! WE LOVE TULSA TOUGH AND CRYBABY HILL!!!
"Laura" – Texas
"I enjoy coming together with other women to better ourselves and to share a part of our lives with one another in a fun, healthy way."
"Dana" – Oklahoma
"Tulsa Tough is the event that I look forward to more than any other the entire calendar year. I love the Gran Fondos and watching the races. This is truly a crown jewel for the city of Tulsa.
"Greg" – Oklahoma
"I think this is one of the greatest things that has come to Tulsa. I am proud to tell family and friends in other states about this event—and encourage them to participate next year. I can't say this enough—please thank whoever came up with this event. I was at the first one eight years ago, and my life is better because of it."
"Stewart" – Oklahoma
"Tulsa Tough is a high point in my year. I know it takes a huge effort to make it happen, so my hat's off to you. I hope to volunteer and ride next year. Thanks again for the best event in Tulsa."
"Stan" – Illinos