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Celebrating Heart Month with Mayor Karl Dean

Mayor Karl Dean is being honored at the 40th Heart Gala this month so we took a few minutes to find out how he takes care of his own heart.

Written By:  Erin Byers Murray

Photographers:  Mandy Whitley Photography & The Tennessean

NL: You're being honored at the 40th Heart Gala this month for your work supporting wellness initiatives, which focus on raising awareness and improving the health of the community. How do you take care of your own heart?
I enjoy exercising. I try to incorporate activity into my daily routine. I take the bus to work whenever I can, which requires you to walk more than if you drive a car. I often walk to meetings that are around the Metro Courthouse, and I take the stairs as often as possible. I also try to eat a well-balanced diet as much as possible, although I'll admit that healthy eating is much harder for me than exercising.

NL: Why have you chosen to put fitness and healthy living near the top of your agenda for the city year after year?
Our city and our country are facing some dire health statistics. Nashville has a real chance to become a national leader in the fight against obesity, and in the process, make our individual lives better. Nearly 30 percent of Tennesseans are obese, and 38 percent of our youth in Nashville are obese or overweight. Even more disturbing, this is the first generation of children expected to live shorter lives than their parents since our country began keeping records on life expectancy more than 100 years ago. If this were any other health issue, like the flu, it would be viewed as an epidemic, and the entire country would be focused on finding a solution.

Nashville is an international center for the healthcare industry. We should be one of the healthiest cities in America. That's why it's important to me to hold community-wide events like Walk 100 Miles with the Mayor, the Mayor's Challenge 5K Walk/Run and Mayor's Field Day. I'm also challenging the business community to create work environments that support healthy living with the Mayor's Workplace Challenge. I realize that one walk or a 5K isn't going to solve our obesity problem, but we hope to motivate people, teach healthy habits and help our future generation lead healthier, more active lives.

NL: What has been the most rewarding aspect?
I have really enjoyed getting to know Nashville residents during our walks and while training for the 5K. They enjoy the camaraderie, and many have great stories to tell about their successes. For instance, a local pastor who participated in the 5K last year told me about how he lost 30 pounds during the city's nine-week training program. This year for our Walk 100 Miles campaign, I got a letter from a 95-year-old resident at a nursing home who is walking laps in the hallways, and she is close to the 100-mile mark. And, at this year's 5K, we included a Kids' Fun Run, and more than 300 children and their parents participated. I'm inspired by these stories and knowing that we are setting an example for future generations.

NL: The last few years have seen amazing improvements as you've worked to make this city more exercise friendly. What should we look forward to in 2013?
KD: One of the things I hear all the time around town is that people really love the walks. So, we'll keep walking. We'll have Walk with the Mayor events, and we'll bring back some themed walks, like the bird-watching, geology and history walks that we've done. We also plan to bring back Mayor's Field Day in the spring and the 5K and Kids' Fun Run in the fall.

Additionally, last fall, we launched a new mobile application called NashVitality. It includes interactive maps for all types of activities, including walking, hiking, biking, water access and much more. Every section of the app has the "Explore Near Me" option, which displays all category results in the immediate vicinity. The app is free and available on both iPhones and Android devices.

The other new thing that is generating a lot of excitement is the Nashville B-cycle program, which we launched this winter. Nashville B-cycle is the city's new bike-share program that is designed for short trips within the urban core. We have 190 bikes at 20 automated kiosks within a three-mile radius of downtown. Riders can check out a B-cycle from one of the automated bike stations, ride to their destination and return the bike at any nearby station for an hour at a time. Nashville B-cycle expands on the city's existing bike share program, called Nashville GreenBikes, a system of free bikes available at several Metro Parks community centers and greenways.

NL: Where is your favorite place in the city to take in a workout (park, gym or otherwise)?
KD: It's really impossible to name one favorite place because we are fortunate in Nashville to have an abundance of parks, greenways and open spaces, where I enjoy walking. Of course, Centennial Park is special because it is in the heart of our city, but all our large, regional parks like Shelby, Warner and Hadley, are exceptional.

NL: What one thing about Nashville do you this month?
KD: One of the things that I love about our city is that it is a magnet for creative people. They come here with their ability to write, perform or produce a song as their capital. Our growing creative class makes Nashville an even more culturally rich city. The creative people living here, along with the friendliness we are known for and the great sense of optimism the people of Nashville have about our city, fills me with immense pride and confidence about where Nashville is headed.

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