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Mayor Whips St. Louis Into Shape

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said he doesn't want to see his city on any more lists of the fattest, unhealthiest places in the country.

Slay and the equally fit St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley have teamed up to inspire residents to lose weight, eat a healthier diet and exercise regularly.

The resulting health and fitness campaign is "Get Hooked on Health St. Louis."

It will feature former Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith as the first St. Louis fitness czar and follow cities such as Philadelphia, Houston and Cincinnati in getting public officials behind efforts to turn couch potatoes into gym regulars.

"National publications such as Men's Health, Men's Fitness and Self magazine have given the city of St. Louis less than stellar grades when it comes to overall health and fitness of our citizens," Slay said.

Last year, a Men's Health survey in which 101 cities were given a scorecard on fitness, quality of life and health, St. Louis ranked 99 overall with grades of F, D and F, respectively. Men's Fitness ranked St. Louis as the fifth fattest city out of 25 that were surveyed. Also last year, Self magazine looked at 40 different factors that affect a community's health and a person's ability to be healthy in that community, and for women, St. Louis was the unhealthiest city — out of 200 cities reviewed.

"Enough is enough. As mayor I don't want to see our remarkable city on another fattest or unhealthiest list," Slay said.

Slay, a former high school and college soccer star, has kept his fitness regimen going, making fruit and power drinks staples of his diet. He chastises his staff for eating foods high in fat and cholesterol. And he walks or lifts weights nearly every day.

Dooley said he remained trim by exercising three times a week, and he challenged residents to eat five fruits and vegetables a day.

Charter Communications will begin broadcasting public service announcements next week featuring Smith, as Slay's appointed fitness czar. The Hall of Famer is loved by St. Louis fans for his trademark back flip that would whip up fans at Busch Stadium.

The ultimate goal is to make the St. Louis area more healthy by providing more information on ways to exercise and eat right.

"It's not just about carbs and calories, it's about lifestyle," said Slay, whose goal is to offer ongoing community-wide programs targeting health and fitness. In January, the YMCA of Greater St. Louis, a partner in the initiative, will sponsor a Health Expo.

In a city that loves frozen custard and toasted ravioli, Clay and Dooley want St. Louis to be known as the city that knows how to mix its guilty pleasures with a walk around the park.

Slay said city residents have 105 city parks to choose from and should use them to walk, jog and bike.

Dooley encourages residents to walk five times a week in one of the county's 72 parks.

"We want to — and we will — change the image of St. Louis from heavy to healthy," Dooley said.

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