Leaders at Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation say they have seen too many residents become obese and then suffer the health consequences.
Even people who are moderately overweight are more likely to suffer from diabetes or high blood pressure, resulting in debilitating diseases or death, said Huck Sunchild, director of the Chippewa Cree Wellness Center.
So the tribal council has declared all-out war on obesity and is making every effort to get people to exercise and eat right, he said.
Sunchild said the wellness center offers state-of-the-art equipment designed to get people of all ages in shape.
Activities include weight-lifting, walking, dancing, basketball, and many other types of exercise, he said.
The wellness center swimming pool is out of commission now, he said. But it will soon be back in order, and there will be family swimming, he said.
Sunchild said the tribe is explaining to people the value of exercising, that exercising even a couple of times a week will have tremendous health benefits.
The tribal council is allowing staffers to take an hour off, so they can exercise at the wellness center.
The theory, Sunchild said, is that workers will feel better and thus will work better and take off fewer sick days.
The wellness center will also offer nutrition tips, urging people to cut back on caffeine, red meats and fatty foods as a way of cutting down on cardiovascular disease.
The battle is to get people into the wellness center, he said. But sometimes encouraging people to continue working out is even more difficult.
Sometimes sedentary people begin to exercise but tire out easily or become sore, so they are reluctant to continue.
Staffers at the wellness center can work with people to design a program that fits every person's needs, he said.
Not everyone needs to become a weightlifter, he said.
He said he has already seen a higher number of people show up at the wellness center, but there is still room for more.
The center is open in the evenings, so people who work during the day can still find times to workout.
That's good news to Vicki Hazel, the diabetes education program coordinator on the reservation.
Over the years, she said, Americans' lifestyles have changed for the worst. Sedentary lifestyles combined with poor diets have resulted in health problems.
"The last time I read, children in the United States are the fattest in the world," she said.
"That's why we are trying to promote the importance of exercise," she said.
Diabetes is a problem, she said, and an increasing number of people are being diagnosed as prediabetic.
Prediabetes is a warning signal of bad things to come, she said. People can ward off diabetes by taking care of themselves when they start to get the warning signals, she said.
"Walking around the track can be great for people," she said.