Oklahoma governor says he's inspired by Huckabee

Thursday, September 30th 2004, 5:43 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry acknowledged Wednesday that he sets a bad example for physical fitness, but promised to do better.

``I could be a poster child for what not to do,'' Henry said. ``I don't eat very well. I don't exercise any. At least I don't smoke.''

The subject came up when Henry, a Democrat, was asked about Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee's personal fitness campaign and the growing problem of obesity among schoolchildren.

Huckabee has lost 105 pounds on an exercise regimen and is passionate about the subject, Henry said.

Huckabee says he and Henry talk about the fitness issue at governor's meetings, considers him a good friend.

``Brad doesn't have anything like the health issues or weight concerns that I was facing,'' Huckabee said.

Both governors agree that Arkansas and Oklahoma share a common problem of obesity among students in the public school system.

Arkansas, Henry said, was the first state in the nation to implement a program where parents are notified of their children's body mass index.

The idea is to identify potential obesity so action can be taken early to prevent accompanying health problems, such as diabetes.

``He's got me excited about this and we are looking into emulating the same things that Huckabee has done,'' Henry said.

Legislation was introduced in the Oklahoma Legislature last year to restrict vending machine sales of soft drinks and junk food snacks, but the measure died after school districts complained about the prospects of losing revenue from vending machine sales.

Henry, however, expressed hope that the problem could be attacked at the local level under a new law requiring schools to set up health advisory committees.

Henry said he has begun allowing exercise breaks for employees of the governor's office, then said he did not set a good example.

He said he had started ``a little bit of an exercise plan'' and would be doing more in the future.

``I will do that,'' he said.

A spokesman for Henry said the governor, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 185 pounds, did not have the weight to lose that Huckabee did.

Huckabee said an important message is sent when a state's leader starts making his health a priority.

``When people start talking about their own health, they say they don't have time, but the truth is you make the time,'' Huckabee said. ``I think when people see a governor makes the time, they realize it's a matter of will.''