Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Physical Fitness: The Gateway to Preventive Health

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Physical Fitness: The Gateway to Preventive Health

Article excerpt


We are currently in the early stages of a pandemic that may create enormous personal suffering and place enormous stress on our health care systems, to the point of having detrimental affects on the economies of countries throughout the world. This pandemic is not the consequence of a plague or any other disease process. This pandemic is man made. The changes in our lifestyle to a more sedentary existence, and the changes in our dietary consumption to a greater percentage of processed food has led individuals to increase their body weight to the point where overweight and obesity are common place in our society. There are many disease processes that result from being overweight and obesity including heart disease and Type II diabetes just to mention two. Since this condition was created by man, the solution to the problem lies in the hands of each individual. As a society we need to recommend changes in our dietary habits and promote physical activity to achieve a healthy lifestyle. This paper emphasizes the role of physical activity and physical fitness to alleviate this pandemic.

The components of physical fitness are also referred to as health fitness, since these components are closely related to improved health. The components of physical fitness include cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength, muscular flexibility, and body composition. The promotion of physical fitness provides individuals direct physiological and psychological benefits that will serve to enhance preventive health. These benefits include reduction of mortality rates, reduction of blood glucose levels for the prevention of adult onset diabetes, and regulation of blood glucose levels in individuals who currently have diabetes, and enhancement of the ability of individuals who have chronic lung diseases to lead more productive lives. Becoming more physically fit also reduces the risk of the development of atherosclerosis by helping to reduce the risk factors associated with the disease including: increasing high-density lipoproteins (HDL), reducing systemic hypertension, reducing percent body fat, reduction of insulin needs, reducing platelet adhesiveness and aggregation. Physical fitness also reduces the risk of the development of glaucoma by the reduction of intraocular pressure experienced as a result of exercise. Physical activity promotes a reduction in the risk osteoporosis and bone fractures by increasing bone mineral density, reducing the risk of the development of certain types of cancers, and decreasing the severity of depression, anxiety, and stabilizing mood. In addition to the direct effects resulting from physical fitness, individuals who are physically active appear to possess many lifestyle characteristics that enhance preventive health. For the sake of discussion, these behaviors will be referred to as "indirect benefits of physical fitness". Studies have demonstrated that individuals who engage in an active lifestyle are less likely to smoke, less likely to abuse addictive drugs, less likely to abuse alcohol, and less likely to engage in destructive eating behaviors. In addition to providing the documentation that demonstrates how each of the above benefits serves to enhance preventive health, this paper will review the impact of a sedentary lifestyle on society; and will discuss strategies to increase physical fitness participation.

Direct Physiological Benefits Resulting From Physical Fitness

Reduction in all causes of mortality rates among physically active individuals.

In the 1950's researchers first acknowledged the relationship between physical activity and mortality rates from all causes (Morris & Heady 1953). In a long-term prospective follow-up study involving male subjects, the researchers determined that the relative risk of death from any cause was associated with physical activity. The researchers demonstrated that the greater the level of physical activity the lower the relative risk of death. …

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