The United States is considered a sports mad country. But the reality is that Americans enjoy watching sports, reading about them and talking about them. When it comes to the actual sweating part of sports – you know, participating – we’d rather sit on our couches, remote control in hand.
As a whole, the United States is a sedentary country. A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June said only 23 per cent of Americans are getting enough exercise.
And that’s killing us. It’s called sedentary death syndrome.
New research concludes that a sedentary lifestyle is worse for you than smoking.
That’s the finding of a study published recently in the journal JAMA Network Open. Researchers at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic studied the activity levels of 122,007 patients from 1991 to 2014. They found a “clear connection” between a healthy, longer life and cardiovascular exercise.
“Cardiorespiratory fitness is inversely associated with long-term mortality with no observed upper limit of benefit,” according to the study.
The key finding from the study is that a sedentary lifestyle is equivalent to having a major disease.
Not an expensive pharmaceutical. But inexpensive cardiovascular exercise. The research was straightforward: the more people exercise, the more their mortality rates drop.
In a summary of the benefits of regular exercise, Aaron E. Carroll, a professor at Indiana University School of Medicine, offered this:
“Of all the things we as physicians can recommend for health, few provide as much benefit as physical activity. In 2015, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges put out a report calling exercise a miracle cure.”
As human beings, at a basic level, we’re all athletes. And as athletes, we need to move on a regular basis.
Former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama understands that. While in the White House, she recognized the need to get Americans moving more. She started an initiative called Let’s Move!, designed to get people – especially young people – more active.
Don’t look for current U.S. President Donald Trump to continue any promotional efforts to get people more active in sports and other physical activities.
Trump apparently avoids exercise because he believes it drains the body’s “finite” energy resources. I kid you not.
Trump’s views on exercise were touched on in a New Yorker article last year and also mentioned in a 2016 biography titled Trump Revealed. The book noted that Trump mostly gave up athletics after college because he “believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted.”
Medical doctors and exercise physiology experts counter Trump’s bizarre claim by pointing out that the human body becomes stronger and more energetic with exercise.
“If we can create a battery that, every time it’s used, actually becomes more powerful and efficient, then sure, our body is like that battery,” said Michael Jones, a sports medicine specialist at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.
According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise improves muscle and heart health, boosting people’s endurance and giving them more energy.
Now that isn’t fake news.
Michelle L. Segar, a research investigator at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan, believes that in order to get people to be more physically active, the focus needs to be on why exercise enhances one’s life in the present instead of what exercise can do for somebody over time.
“It has to be portrayed as a compelling behaviour that can benefit us today,” says Segar. “People who say they exercise for its benefits to quality of life exercise more over the course of a year than those who say they value exercise for its health benefits.”
Segar believes focusing on the immediate awards of exercise versus emphasizing more distant ones will be more effective in getting people to move more.
“Feeling happy and less stressed is more motivating than not getting heart disease or cancer, maybe, some day in the future,” says Segar.
It’s an approach worth taking. The current approach isn’t working. The health of Americans continues to deteriorate, people are dying prematurely and health care costs continue to skyrocket.
Sedentary death syndrome might be the saddest of all health problems because it’s based on something that can be directly controlled by every individual.
Ken Reed is sports policy director for League of Fans (leagueoffans.org), a sports reform project. He is the author of The Sports Reformers, Ego vs. Soul in Sports, and How We Can Save Sports.
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