New Reports Up the Ante on Sedentary Lifestyles
The link between inactivity, obesity, poor health, and death is well known. People who spend their days sitting suffer from obesity, diabetes, organ damage, circulatory illnesses, and heart disease. The Lancet recently published a series of articles about the pandemic of physical inactivity that are well worth reading.
Some of the highlights of the various articles include:
- Approximately 17% of the world population can be considered sedentary, and 31% does not meet the minimum daily exercise recommendations for a healthy lifestyle.
- 6-10% of all deaths stemming non-communicable diseases are a direct result of physical inactivity.
- Physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide.
- The cost of medical care arising from physical inactivity is astronomical. More comparative study is necessary, but estimates put U.S. cost at $28.40 per capita.
We all sing the praises of exercise. A more participatory population would affect not only the death toll for people who die from inactivity. It would reduce the medical costs and impact of heart disease, circulatory, and respiratory illness, not to mention obesity, diabetes, and some cancers. If there was ever a panacea to cure all ills, exercise is it.
Maybe it’s time we changed the tone of the discussion. People seem more motivated by fear than by exhortation of benefit. Maybe it’s time we told them, not how much better their lives will be if they exercise, but how much they lose when they don’t.
The smartest solution that’s unlikely to happen
Everything is about money and power instead of about what’s important these days. School budgets are cut, and the first things to go are physical fitness and after-school programs. Habitats for kids are shrinking. Instead of playing outside like they once did, improvising stickball games or pickup basketball games with mom’s laundry basket nailed to a pole on a vacant lot, kids are parked in front of a TV set. They can’t learn the sheer joy of working up a sweat, because it’s just not safe. Sure, programs are everywhere…but most are pricey and time-consuming for the parents.
The obvious answer is to include exercise options in health care and schools, and to build more supervised areas for play. To offer insurance premium discounts for people who take advantage of subsidized exercise programs and show improvement.
It’s unlikely to happen because it would mean huge cost in the long run and reap huge benefits many years down the line. Maybe they won’t say it out loud, but some people will even argue that making everyone healthier is a bad move for the economy. Longer lives equal more social security expense, perhaps an unsustainable expense. Just one more complication. What do you think?