Nashville's battle against obesity

Residents of Nashville, Tenn. exercising - trying to shed pounds and the title of fourth highest obesity rate in the country
CBS News

(CBS News) Nashville, Tenn. is famous for its country music legends, honky-tonks, Southern-style cooking and its growing obesity problem. Tennessee has the fourth-highest obesity rate in America.

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But Nashville's Mayor Karl Dean is waging a slow, steady battle against the crisis and trying to make the city a healthier place. His strategy, he says, is simple -- to expand opportunities for exercise and good nutrition and to lead by example.

With a $7.5 million stimulus grant, Dean is transforming Nashville into an exercise-friendly city, creating bike paths and parks where they've never existed. But he's most proud of a program that's getting Nashvillians moving together, so last April he put out a challenge to get people walking.

"The idea was to really engage the community," Dean said. "Let's set a goal of 100 miles, and that's wasn't a hard goal. 100 miles over a couple of months... I don't care what your fitness level is. We will have fun, and we did have fun."

He also launched the city's first ever play day, which brought out more than 3,000 people.

"I worry about kids," Dean said. "And you have children where Tennessee ranks in the bottom five for obesity. And we know obesity leads to diabetes, and there is a direct correlation -- and to heart disease, a direct correlation, and potentially cancer."

"We are an active city, there is not question about it, we are an active city and we are going to continue to work and build parks, and greenways and bike programs and invest in the things that keep a city health," Dean said. "And I'm going to keep pushing people to take advantage of them, and I'm going to keep trying to turn away from that cheeseburger."

To watch the Chip Reid's full report, click on the video above.

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    Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.