Thursday, April 17, 2008

Health Care and Exercise

President Dwight Eisenhower started a program during the early days of his administration in the 1950's that focused America's attention on getting fit. The first Council identified itself as a "catalytic agent" concentrating on creating public awareness and was chaired by VP Richard Nixon. Over the last five decades, the Council has expanded with additional amended Executive Orders by the sitting Presidents from the 1960's through to the current decade. Still today, President George W. Bush is continuing this effort to get Americans to exercise. In 2006, the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports launched its 50th Anniversary year by celebrating the accomplishments of its partners and friends.

According to the Department of Health & Human Services, The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports is an advisory committee of volunteer citizens who advise the President through the Secretary of HHS about physical activity, fitness, and sports in America. Through its programs and partnerships with the public, private and non-profit sectors, the Council serves as a catalyst to promote health, physical activity, fitness, and enjoyment for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities through participation in physical activity and sports.

The Mayo Clinic has a lot to say about the benefits of exercise. The merits of exercise — from preventing chronic health conditions to boosting confidence and self-esteem — are hard to ignore. And the benefits are yours for the taking, regardless of age, sex or physical ability. The Mayo Clinic website lists the following seven benefits of exercise:
1. Exercise improves your mood.
2. Exercise combats chronic diseases.
3. Exercise helps you manage your weight.
4. Exercise strengthens your heart and lungs.
5. Exercise promotes better sleep.
6. Exercise can put the spark back into your sex life.
7. Exercise can be — gasp — fun!

Regular exercise can help protect you from heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, noninsulin-dependent diabetes, obesity, back pain, osteoporosis, and can improve your mood and help you to better manage stress. For the greatest overall health benefits, experts recommend that you do 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic activity three or more times a week and some type of muscle strengthening activity and stretching at least twice a week. However, if you are unable to do this level of activity, you can gain substantial health benefits by accumulating 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity a day, at least five times a week.
If you have been inactive for a while, you may want to start with less strenuous activities such as walking or swimming at a comfortable pace. Beginning at a slow pace will allow you to become physically fit without straining your body. Once you are in better shape, you can gradually do more strenuous activity. Regular physical activity that is performed on most days of the week reduces the risk of developing or dying from some of the leading causes of illness and death in the United States as indicated by information supplied online at

Millions of Americans suffer from illnesses that can be prevented or improved through regular physical activity as reported by
• 13.5 million people have coronary heart disease.
• 1.5 million people suffer from a heart attack in a given year.
• 8 million people have adult-onset (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes.
• 95,000 people are newly diagnosed with colon cancer each year.
• 250,000 people suffer from a hip fractures each year.
• 50 million people have high blood pressure.
• Over 60 million people (a third of the population) are overweight.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), despite common knowledge that exercise is healthful, more than 60% of American adults are not regularly active, and 25% of the adult population are not active at all. Moreover, although many people have enthusiastically embarked on vigorous exercise programs at one time or another, most do not sustain their participation. Clearly, the processes of developing and maintaining healthier habits are as important to study as the health effects of these habits.

The effort to understand how to promote more active lifestyles is of great importance to the health of this nation. Although the study of physical activity determinants and interventions is at an early stage, effective programs to increase physical activity have been carried out in a variety of settings, such as schools, physicians' offices, and worksites. Determining the most effective and cost-effective intervention approaches is a challenge for the future. Fortunately, our country has skilled leadership and institutions to support efforts to encourage and assist Americans to become more physically active. Schools, community agencies, parks, recreational facilities, and health clubs are available in most communities and can be more effectively used in these efforts according to the report issued by the CDC.

Outside the school, physical activity programs and initiatives face the challenge of a highly technological society that makes it increasingly convenient to remain sedentary and that discourages physical activity in both obvious and subtle ways. To increase physical activity in the general population, it may be necessary to go beyond traditional efforts. Special efforts will also be required to meet the needs of special populations, such as people with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, people with low income, and the elderly. Much more information about these important groups will be necessary to develop a truly comprehensive national initiative for better health through physical activity.

The Surgeon General concludes that challenges for the future include identifying key determinants of physically active lifestyles among the diverse populations that characterize the United States (including special populations, women, and young people) and using this information to design and disseminate effective programs. Also, the Surgeon General says that the stakes are high, and the potential rewards are momentous: preventing premature death, unnecessary illness, and disability; controlling health care costs; and maintaining a high quality of life into old age.

Additionally, from, we are encouraged to think about the benefits of exercise.
Here are some ideas:
1.) Remind yourself of your weight loss goals.
2.) Think of a future event to get ready for (a wedding, a vacation, etc.).
3.) Consider how much energy you'll have to get more things done.
4.) Imagine how relaxed you'll feel after a workout.
5.) Think of your exercise time as the only time you may get to yourself all day.
6.) Remind yourself how good you'll feel by following through.
7.) Promise yourself a reward for completing your workout.
8.) Think of all the diseases and illnesses your workout could protect you from.
9.) Remind yourself that this workout is necessary to reach your goal.

Everyone knows they should exercise. It's tough to get started if you don't already have a game plan or current regimen. However, the benefits far outweigh not being active at all. If you currently exercise on a regular basis, good for you! Keep up the good work. If you need to exercise, get going now! Don't procrastinate like all those people who wait til New Year's to start on their resolution to get fit and then fade after the first few weeks into it. Do it now! You'll be glad you did.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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