Fitness News

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Be Physically Active Each Day

Fitness problems such as obesity and overweight have reached truly epidemic proportions in the United States. In the last 10 years, obesity rates have increased by more than 60 percent among adults. In 1999, 61 percent of the adult population was either overweight or obese. The obesity epidemic impacts other diseases as well. For example, the incidence of type 2 diabetes, a major consequence of obesity, is on the rise. Among U.S. adults, diagnosed diabetes increased 49 percent from 1990 to 2000.

The rate of increase in overweight among young people has been even steeper. This is particularly troubling since many of the behaviors that lead to adult obesity are established during childhood. Just 10 years ago, type 2 diabetes was virtually unknown in children and adolescents. Indeed, the medical community commonly referred to the condition as "adult onset diabetes." Today, it accounts for almost 50 percent of new cases of pediatric diabetes in some communities. Medical complications associated with obesity in children can lead to hospitalizations for type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and asthma. Since 1980, the percentage of children who are overweight has nearly doubled, and the percentage of adolescents who are overweight has nearly tripled. Almost 9 million young Americans, or about 15 percent of all children, are overweight.

Americans young and old should incorporate regular physical activity into their everyday lives. This does not necessarily mean joining an expensive gym or committing to a rigorous exercise or training routine. It is sufficient to choose activities that fit into your daily routine that speed your heart rate and breathing, or increase your strength and flexibility. Examples include walking to work, gardening, taking extra stairs, or mowing the lawn with a push mower. Besides building strength and aerobic fitness, regular exercise relieves stress, provides motivation, promotes relaxation, and facilitates sleep. Such activity reduces the risk of dying of coronary heart disease and decreases the risk for colon cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Regular physical activity is important throughout life. Healthy lifestyles are more influential than genetic factors in avoiding deterioration traditionally associated with aging. The growing number of older Americans places increasing demands on the public health system and on medical and social services. Currently, almost one-third of total U.S. health care expenditures are for older adults. These expenditures are largely due to treatment and care of chronic diseases, and the cost associated with many of these conditions could be reduced through regular physical activity.

For children, almost any physical activity is sufficient as long as they are moving. Playing actively or participating in athletic or physical fitness activities during school, running, biking, jumping rope, and dancing— instead of watching television or playing video games— all provide children with the kinds of activity they need.


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