Americans have an obsession with sports. We flock by the thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, to see our favorite team play on their home turf. We cram into living rooms and bars to watch the games when we can t be there in person. We discuss them obsessively with our fellow fans and listen to the talking heads dissect them ad nauseum on the radio and TV. From Baseball to Football and from Junior High School in many places to College to the Pros we are obsessed with sports. The problem is we seem to be only obsessed with watching sports, because when it comes to actually being active ourselves, Americans are failing epically (think Alex Rodriguez in the playoffs levels).
This really should not be a surprise to anyone; you d have to have spent the last few decades in a bunker to be unaware that obesity and obesity related illnesses are on the rise in America. However, outside of the occasional initiative (e.g. NFL s Play 60) the media and public health officials generally focus on the unhealthy eating side of obesity. It s hard to miss the efforts to fight poor eating habits (see Bloomberg s numerous fruitless attempts to control NYC s waistline), but this is only half the story.
Inactivity in America has reached embarrassing proportions, this according to the latest numbers by the Physical Activity Council, which shows that more than 1 in 4 people over the age of 6 were not physically active in the last year. That s more than 80 million Americans who did none of the over 100 physical activities the council uses in its definition of physical activity, a list that includes Bird watching.
Physical activity is not just about obesity though: it can have positive effects on a variety of other ailments. One such, highlighted in today s New York Times, is osteoarthritis (OA), a disease of the bones and joints that affects more than 50 million Americans. People afflicted with OA experience debilitating pain which often pushes them to a sedentary lifestyle. However, this only exacerbates their health problems by increasing their likelihood for chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even depression. Unfortunately, new research suggests that OA sufferers are failing to engage in physical activity. One study, from Arthritis Care and Research, found that in a cohort of almost 2,000 arthritis sufferer, only 13% met the recommended 150 minutes per week of physical activity.
Another study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that arthritis sufferers on average spend two thirds of their waking hours sedentary. This study, which tracked the movement of 1,000 participants with accelerometers, also reported that the less active the patient was, the slower they moved and the harder it was for them to move. Inactivity creates a deleterious feedback loop where people are in pain so they don t move, which then makes it even harder for them to move, which worsens their pain making them more sedentary and more likely to develop chronic health problems. Thankfully being active can break the cycle, but people need to take that proverbial first step.
ACSH s Nicholas Staropoli adds: Nobody is saying you have to go out and live out the movie Invincible or head to spring training with the New York Mets. You don t even need to join a gym, just a little bit of movement, as little as 20 minutes a day according to the Mayo Clinic, can go a long way to improving your health.