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Are You One of 1 in 4 Americans Not Getting Enough Physical Activity?

New studies show that 28% of adults are physically inactive. Sitting is the new smoking. Are you one of 1 in 4 Americans not getting enough actviity?

According to a plethora of articles and news items over the last several years, sitting is the new smoking. And if that’s the case, then things are looking pretty grim for American adults. A study released late last year by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) revealed that 28% of adults over 50 (or roughly 31 million Americans) are inactive beyond the basic movements required for daily life. That means more than 1 in 4 older adults move only the bare minimum required to get them through the day. No additional exercise. No walks. No fitness, cycling, dancing, or other leisure activity that requires them to move. They go from their bed to the office to the couch and repeat. If it sounds awful, it is; not only due to the lack of stimulation and socialization but because put simply, inactivity has an enormous negative impact on quality and length of life.

The High Cost of Inactivity

According to sources from the CDC, US News, and NY Times:

75% of healthcare costs go toward treating chronic disease, and

Prolonged sitting is the #1 contributor to chronic disease.

Our inactivity is costing us dearly.

Sitting is the most underrated health-threat of modern time,” says Tom Rath, author of the New York Times bestselling book, Eat Move Sleep. In an article in Forbes magazine, Rath shared a sobering fact, “Researchers found that sitting more than six hours in a day will greatly increase your risk of an early death.” What else can lack activity contribute to? According to the World Health Organization, the list is long:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Osteoporosis
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Cancer
You are stronger than you think you are!

Who’s At Risk?

According to the WHO, 60 to 85% of the world’s population - both in developed and developing nations - lead sedentary lifestyles, making this one of the most serious public health problems of our time. 85% of America’s workforce is paid to sit at a desk all day. For more than five decades, there has been a progressive decrease in the number of workers employed in roles that require moderate intensity physical activity. And as the prevalence of office jobs grows, so do the health risks.

But an office job isn’t the only risk factor. When CDC researchers analyzed the data from the 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to examine patterns of inactivity among adults age 50 and older the analysis showed:

  • Inactivity is higher for women (29.4%) than men (25.5%)
  • The percentage of inactivity by race and ethnicity varies: Hispanics are at the top of the list (32.7 percent), followed by non-Hispanic blacks (33.1 percent), and non-Hispanic whites (26.2 percent)
  • Inactivity increases significantly with age: 25.4% of adults 50-64 years are inactive; by age 75 that number increases to 35.3%
  • Inactivity is highest in the southern states (30.1%) followed by the midwest (28.4%) and the northeast (26.6&); the west part of the country has the lowest occurrence of inactivity (23.1%)
  • Colorado has the lowest rate of inactivity (17.9%); Arkansas has the highest (38.8%)
  • Inactivity enjoys an inverse relationship to the level of education; in other words, as education increases, the rate of inactivity decreases

What’s the Alternative?

It’s clear that inactivity is bad news, but what happens if we start to move? “Adults benefit from any amount of physical activity,” says Janet E. Fulton, Ph.D. and chief of CDC’s Physical Activity and Health Branch. Get a move on, even just a short break to stand and stretch every hour, and positive benefits quickly add up. The threat of breast cancer drops by 21%. The chances of a stroke drop by 27%. And there’s a 50% reduction in the threat of hypertension, a disease that costs the U.S. over $47 billion annually in direct medical expenses.

Physical activity lets you live longer and helps prevent chronic disease. It improves muscular fitness, raises your metabolism, and helps you lose weight. It reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. It maintains brain function as you age. It increases bone density, improves sleep quality, and helps with digestion and quality of life. It’s the cheapest and easiest “prescription” for our health.

What Can We Do?

There are many ways to include activity in your day, at home, at work, and at play. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.

At Home

  • Do the housework yourself instead of hiring someone to do it.
  • Get to work in the garden – fresh air and exercise in one easy afternoon!
  • Go for a walk after dinner. Your dog will thank you! Start with 5-10 minutes at an easy pace and work up to 30 minutes of moderate intensity. To up the ante, choose a hilly route.
  • Walk or bike to the corner store instead of taking the car.
  • When watching TV, sit up instead of lying down. Better yet, turn off the TV and go for a walk.
  • Stand up while talking on the phone.

At Work

  • Have “walking” meetings with coworkers – not only will you move, but getting outside can actually aid creativity.
  • Walk during business calls when you don't need to reference important documents.
  • Stand while talking on the phone.
  • Skip the email and instead walk down the hall to talk with a colleague.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Start a recreation sports league at your company.
  • Join a gym near your office. Work out before or after work to avoid rush-hour traffic.
  • Schedule exercise time in your daily calendar and treat it as you would any other important appointment.
  • Get off the bus a few blocks early and walk the rest of the way to work.
  • Walk around your building for periodic breaks during the day or at lunch.
  • Get a stand-up desk.

At Play

  • Plan family outings and vacations that include physical activity (hiking, backpacking, swimming, etc.).
  • See the sights in your city by walking, jogging, or cycling.
  • Make a date with a friend to enjoy your favorite physical activities. Do them regularly.
  • Play your favorite music while exercising.
  • Dance in your living room, in your kitchen, out with friends.
  • Join a recreational club that emphasizes fitness and activity.
  • When golfing, walk instead of using a cart.
  • Play singles tennis or racquetball instead of doubles.
The bottom line is, being active will help you live better and longer so get moving today.

For more information on proactive, preventive medicine, turn to Wound Care Solutions, the premier healthcare resource for primary care and geriatric medicine for homebound patients in the Chicagoland area.