“Sitting is the new smoking” and “exercise is medicine.” Those were two of the big-picture thoughts which I shared with the Rotary Club of Wellington on Thursday, June 13. On that day, I discussed the national issue of physical inactivity during this gathering of Wellington community leaders.
In addition to writing for Wellington The Magazine, I also serve as the director of communications for PHIT America, a national nonprofit group working to reverse the current “inactivity pandemic” in the United States. I have also spent more than 30 years working in the communications sector of the sporting goods and fitness industry.
Right now, this “inactivity pandemic” impacts the lives of 81.7 million Americans. The issue of physical inactivity negatively impacts healthcare costs, academic achievement and military readiness.
During my recent presentation, I shared a number of facts about the magnitude of the physical inactivity problem in America. I could tell by the expressions on the faces of the Rotarians that they were surprised by the depth of physical inactivity in the U.S.
How bad is the state of physical inactivity in the U.S.? According to the Physical Activity Council, nearly 82 million Americans are physically inactive. This is largely driven by America’s sedentary lifestyles, which has prompted many medical doctors in the U.S. to declare that “sitting is the new smoking,” and the medicinal benefits of exercise are so strong that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) uses the mantra “exercise is medicine.”
Sadly, 40 percent of adults in the U.S. are obese. Parents and other adults must get physically active during their free time. You can’t sweat on the Internet, so start by putting down cell phones and turning off laptops. Then, they will be free to lead family fitness sessions in their neighborhoods, after dinner on weekdays and during the weekends.
Adults must get physically active for their own benefit, and they must serve as role models for their children, as physical inactivity is affecting the vast majority of young people in the U.S. In fact, less than 10 percent of children ages 6 to 17 are physically active to healthy standards, according to the CDC.
To further confirm the importance of parents and grandparents serving as fitness role models for their children and grandchildren, there is a recent study performed by the British Journal of Sports Medicine that examined fitness levels of children from 50 different countries. Sadly, the results of the study revealed that U.S. children ranked 47th in global fitness. Overall, American children are just not physically fit. Kids, too, need to put down their cell phones and take a break from their tablets.
To get started on the path to physical activity, you don’t even have to leave your desk. There are five simple forms of exercise that don’t require any kind of equipment or athletic experience. They are called “deskercizes.” They can be performed at home, at work or at school.
- Paper Pushups — With your arms outstretched, while grabbing the edge of your desk, lean at 45 degrees and start doing pushups. Consider 20 every hour on the hour.
- Book Press — Pick up the heaviest book that you can hold with both hands. Then, extend the book above your head, and then lower it down behind your neck. This will help your triceps.
- Shoulder Blade Squeezes — To improve your hunched posture, stand up and squeeze your shoulder blades back and forth. Hold the squeeze on your shoulder blades for 10 seconds.
- Chair Squats — Stand a few inches from the edge of your chair, lower yourself until you are seated in your chair, stretch out your arms parallel to the ground and keep your back straight.
- Standing Calf Raises — While grabbing the back of your chair, put your feet together, and get up on your tippy toes. This process strengthens your calf muscles.
Physical inactivity in the U.S. is having a major impact on military readiness. Believe it or not, but the U.S. Army went on record with PHIT America in 2017 to produce an op-ed to address physical inactivity in the U.S. In U.S. Army & PHIT America Respond To Obesity News: National Defense Is At Risk If Physical Inactivity Is Not Reversed, the U.S. Army made a plea to U.S. education leaders to bring back daily physical education to schools because too many military recruits coming out of high school are not physically fit, and, therefore, not capable of making it through boot camp without getting injured because their bodies are not used to basic levels of physical activity.
Learn more about how fighting the “inactivity pandemic” at www.phitamerica.org.