The Exercise Imperative
THE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE - VOL 25 - NO. 4- APRIL 97
The fitness fad of the 1980s might have fizzled, but a broader trend is replacing it: a push to get all of America moving.
It's got to be done. With 60% of Americans sedentary or nearly so, inactivity is one of the biggest epidemics ever. You know the litany: Inactivity contributes significantly to the risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, obesity, falling in older adults, and depression.
The push is coming from many directions—government, professional associations, and nonprofits are working in parallel to increase the numbers of regular exercisers. Just a few examples: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (PCPFS) in Washington, DC, have published and promoted Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General; the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, Reston, Virginia, is working toward quality physical education and coaching for school-age children; and the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (led by the American Heart Association, Dallas; the American College of Sports Medicine, Indianapolis; and the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, Reston, Virginia) promotes both education and policy change.
What's our role as physicians? Remember "see one, do one, teach one" from your medical school days? Same process here:
Learn. Reading The Physician and Sportsmedicine is a great place to start. Pay special attention to our article, "The Surgeon General's Report: A Prime Resource for Exercise Advocates."
Model. Exercise yourself. Most patients are no busier than physicians, and they know it. If you have time to exercise, so do they.
Teach. You'll have to repeat yourself. But learn a few tricks for fitting exercise comfortably and inexpensively into daily life, and pass them on. Clip patient handouts on exercise. Hang posters about exercise in your office. Encourage or reward kids with "Get off it" stickers (the slogan appears over a picture of a blue-jeaned bottom)—part of a public service campaign of the President's Challenge, a program of the PCPFS. (To order at a small charge, call (800) 258-8146.)
And, finally, be part of the broader action: Work, individually and through professional societies, for public policy that promotes physical activity.