We are all aware that the riches of the western world have created marvels and horrors. Chief among them is the obesity, diabetes and heart disease epidemic.
According to a brief released by the CDC in Jan 2012, 35.7% of adults in the US qualified as obese (as defined as a BMI above 30.0). 16.9% of children qualified as obese. To put this in perspective in 1999, 27.5% of the population was obese. In a mere 13 years, the obese adult population increased by 8%!
Type 2 diabetes, the number one cause of adult amputation, is still exploding. Just over 8% of the population is diabetic. This costs $174 billion each year. 80% of people with diabetes for more than 10 years will have retinopathy and eventually go blind! The fact that this is not widespread and known to everyone guzzling sugar drinks is bewildering. In 1980, the incidence of type 2 diabetes was 3 per 1000, now it is 8 per 1000. Here is where it gets scary- 35% of the HEALTHY population is pre-diabetic. Consider that 1 in 3 adults you know are already in the danger zone and if they have a bad few months with poor food quality and poor physical activity, they can cross the threshold and begin the descent into diabetes. 27% of those over 65 are diabetic. In the 1970s it was under 8%!
Heart disease is sadly following a similar trend. I will not post the statistics as they are also easily available.
We need to fundamentally change our eating and our cities to get basic movement back into our lives. Physical education needs to be completely restructured. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who tell me standing at work (as a cashier, in sales, at a bank, etc.) is enough exercise. Standing is not exercise. If standing for 8 hours makes you significantly fatigued- you need MORE exercise. Our ancestors who survived the ice age hunted, scavenged and gathered food regularly. The men and women of early civilization were clearly capable of great feats of strength as evidence by their monuments and recorded histories.
The minimum recommended levels of exercise are 2 hours and 30 min (or 30 min a day during the week) of moderate paced walking and 2 strength workouts. You know what that means? Go to the mall, the park or your own neighborhood and just walk at a pace where you can answer questions with one or two word answers but can’t hold a conversation. Two days a week, do some push ups and some squats. That’s it. The very idea that “After work, I have to deal with the kids, get them fed and then help them with their homework and into bed and finally decompress.” is an excuse about the level of “the dog ate my homework”. You are responsible for your health. No one else. It doesn’t matter what’s convenient or easy. What matters is what is good for you. Don’t complain about conflicting reports and confusion concerning dairy, meat, soy, wheat, etc. Start moving and eating responsibly. That’s it. Start! Once you have started, we can worry about details. I am amazed multiple times a day when people tell me they don’t exercise and don’t have the time. Do you watch more than 1 hour of television/day? Do you spend more than 1 hour on the internet? It is a matter of priorities. 30 min of walking on a treadmill in front of your television will not destroy your relationship with your children. Grow up.