But for many Americans, exercise is not part of daily activity. And the result: we're getting unhealthier, and unhealthier.
If we haven't developed healthy exercise habits, we're probably one of the almost 65% of all Americans who are overweight - or even obese, and risk developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death.
The Body Mass Index is a measure of body fat based on height and weight, and overweight is defined as a BMI of 25 or higher; obesity is defined as a BMI of 30.
Scarily, many children in America are now at risk of developing these ailments at a very early age: in a new study published in the journal Health Affairs, nearly 1 in 3 children has a body mass index greater than normal. The American Heart Foundation advises that the following percentages of American children are overweight or obese:
For non-Hispanic whites, 31.9 percent of males and 29.5 percent of females.
For non-Hispanic blacks, 30.8 percent of males and 39.2 percent of females.
For Mexican Americans, 40.8 percent of males and 35.0 percent of females.
American adults aren't doing very well, either: currently, 64.5 percent of U.S. adults, age 20 years and older, are overweight and 30.5 percent are obese.
Health Risks Associated With Lack Of Exercise
As we've seen above, being overweight can cause a host of problems - from diabetes to heart disease. Some common ailments stemming from weight problems are:
- Coronary heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Dyslipidemia (for example, high total chol
esterol or high levels of triglycerides)
- Liver and Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
- Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
- Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)
People who are overweight or obese can significantly lower their risks, with one simple lifestyle change: exercising!
Why Are So Many Americans Overweight?
The Center For Disease Control calls American society 'obesogenic,' "characterized by environments that promote increased food intake, nonhealthful foods, and physical inactivity."
In kids, eating high-calorie, sugar-filled foods, and spending too much time watching TV, videos, and playing video games all contribute to overweight/obese conditions.
It's up to us to encourage policy makers to create initiatives that put healthier, affordable food and activity choices into our schools and communities. But we don't have to wait for that to happen. It's up to us to learn how to eat right and exercise, for life!
Reaching The Right Weight
It's important to know how much you should weigh. If you're not within the healthy weight range, it's important to begin working towards that goal!
Experts advise that reducing caloric intake is the first step in reaching the right weight. Calories are a measurement of heat, which the body creates to burn food as fuel. You burn up to a certain amount of calories just by living every day, as every activity burns calories (even sleeping!), and depending on your height, weight, age and gender, you need a certain amount just to maintain your weight. Finding out how many calories you need to eat every day is easy: many calorie calculators can be found on-line, to help you determine how many you need to maintain, lose or gain weight.
If you take in more calories than your body can burn, your body stores the extra calories - and you gain weight. To burn more calories, you have to exercise. It's simple!
How Much Exercise Do You Have To Do?
According to the Surgeon General, 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise is advised per day on most, if not all, days of the week. And that's just the minimum, all ages included.
For those who have a high BMI and are overweight or obese, it's recommended that exercise programs be started gradually. Exercise is crucial in avoiding weight gain, and losing unhealthy pounds.
Photo by colros
How Can You Get It?
But for most overweight and obese individuals, heading to the gym can be an exercise in lowering self-esteem! Gyms can be intimidating, and often times equipment can be cumbersome and hard to use. Walking is one of the best ways to incorporate exercise into your daily life. Try a program like the 20% Boost Program, a program designed to help you take 10,000 steps per day. This can be the equivalent of the Surgeon Generals recommendation of 30 minutes of exercise per day - and can include the whole family!
If insecurity is not a problem, gyms and community centers can offer other exercise options:
Swimming: Swimming is a great exercise for obese people, since it's practically non-impact and ease easy on the joints and the body. It provides resistance but supports the body, and feels great!
Recumbent Bikes: Exercise bikes designed with back support. These are easier and more comfortable to use than an upright bike.
Ultimately, the best way to live a healthier life is to get moving! Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 4 days per week is enough to get your heart pumping, and your weight healthy.
Make the move to health!