Nancy Brennan is pleading for Arkansas residents to get in shape as soon as possible.

"Arkansas doesn't have a good track record as far as health goes; there's a lot of obesity and bad habits," she said. "We are trying to make ourselves more available to help the community, especially those who don't have ready access to physicians."

Brennan's church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church of Fort Smith, will host its Health Expo Lifestyle Programs event, which will be offered free to all ages from 1-5 p.m. March 11 inside the church's gymnasium, 2000 Louisville St. The event will include free health check-ups, a personalized computer health age analysis, tips and information on health, chair massages and more, said Brennan, who is the chairperson for the Seventh-day Adventist Church's health and temperance committee.

"This Seventh-day Adventist Church is very proactive on the message of health," she said. "We'd like to see the whole city of Fort Smith show up for the Health Expo."

Boasting the theme Total Health, the event also will include eight illustrated exhibits that will comprise a practical program on how to live a healthy life, Brennan said. These exhibits are nutrition (body-fat analysis/BMI); exercise (exercise demonstration, information and pulse oxygen test); water (bottled water and hydrotherapy demonstration); sunlight (blood-pressure test); temperance (computer health age analysis); air (lung-capacity test); rest (chair massage); and trust (counseling).

"The exercise station gives you hints on what exercise is good for you, and the temperance station will have you fill out a questionnaire," Brennan said. "We'll put that information into the computer, and that will calculate your computer health age.

"Even though your actual age may be 55, your health age, if you practice good habits, might be 25," she added. "If you practice unhealthy habits, your health age might be 75."

The program's trust station will include visits with a physician and the church's pastor, Burnham Rand, Brennan said. The physician will review the results with the individual before offering "some very friendly advice," she said.

Nutritious snacks will include dairy-free cheese dip, "fruity" muffins, cookies and more, Brennan said. Once attendees taste these healthy snacks, they might be able to resist the urge to rely on fast food, she said.

"I think people are unhealthy because of the way we have been brought up in life," Brennan said. "The food people often eat isn't necessarily the healthiest, but if we can train our minds and taste buds to be attracted to things that aren't so salt-laden and fat-laden, we'd be a lot better off, I think.

"Everything today is so salt-laden and sugar-laden," she added. "But once you taste the natural flavors of food without all the additives, it's like saying, 'Wow! This is tasty stuff!'"

Lea Treshnell, communications secretary for the church, said she will be among the volunteers involved in helping record body mass index numbers.

"This is going to be great because this event targets the community of Fort Smith," she said. "It's a great way for people to get their health issues checked out, and they will be able to talk with a doctor."  

According to the Trust for America's Health committee's 14th annual State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America report, 35.7 percent of Arkansas residents are obese. The report also states that Arkansas ranked fourth in the U.S. in heart disease rates, with 7,581 deaths being related to heart disease.

A report from stated that 28.6 percent of Arkansas residents ages 18-25 and 38.4 percent of those ages 26-44 were obese. This report also listed obesity rates for Arkansas individuals who were ages 45-64 (41.1 percent) and for those who were 65 and older (27.6 percent.)

Arkansas also ranked second in strokes (1,583) and fourth in chronic lower respiratory diseases (1,458), states the Trust for America's Health report. 

"Exercise needs to be the No. 1 thing in taking care of yourself," Brennan said. "And it doesn't have to be running and weight-lifting. Walking is the best exercise that a human being can do.

"Once you establish that as a pattern, it is easy," she added. "Once you put walking as a priority, it's great to get out, especially in the good weather."