Magazine article USA TODAY

Don't Fool Yourself about Getting in Shape. (Medicine & Health)

Magazine article USA TODAY

Don't Fool Yourself about Getting in Shape. (Medicine & Health)

Article excerpt

IF I SEE one more article or watch another news special about how Americans are so overweight due to fast food and all the other foods now available to them, I think I'll be sick from the stupidity alone. I grew up in the late 1960s and 1970s, and, if my memory serves me correctly, there were fast food outlets, diners, TV dinners, donuts, desserts, and the same food available to me then as there is now, yet I am not an overweight sloth. In addition, we had television, video games, and computers, albeit not to the extent we do now. Nevertheless, according to the "experts," Americans are overweight and unfit because of three main reasons: they only have fattening food to choose from when they are hungry; technology is so advanced that they spend countless hours in front of computers and television sets; and they are not active enough.

Well, I've got some bad news for you, and then some more bad news. The bad news is that, yes, as a country, we are 10 pounds heavier today than 10 years ago. The other bad news is that, as a country, we are doing nothing to stop this epidemic aside from telling ourselves we need to make better eating choices and try and be more active.

Here are a few other statistics that add to the issue:

* Nearly 80% of our children are overweight and out of shape, yet just 20% of our nation's schools have a mandated daily fitness period.

* The number of individuals who have joined a health club in the past 10 years has doubled.

* Only 10% of adults over 18 years of age exercise regularly (two to three days per week for one hour).

* As a country, we spend billions of dollars annually on weight-loss products, diets, exercise equipment, supplements, etc.

* The number-one killer in the U.S. today is inactivity.

* Insurance costs have reached billions of dollars due to low back pain and resulting absenteeism from work.

* Our elderly are becoming more and more immobile, causing them to lead even-more-sedentary and unproductive lives.

In short, we are lazy; we overeat; we don't prioritize what is truly important to us in our lives; and we don't have a clue as to the steps involved in making proper fitness a consistent part of our daily and hectic lifestyles.

Another thing I am tired of hearing about is our poor children and how we need to do something about their sorry state of condition and get them in better shape. How do we rationally expect our children possibly to be in shape when their parents are so out of shape? What do we expect from them? There's an expression that goes something like this: Before we can expect great things from others, we first need to expect greatness from ourselves. I can just see a youngster having a guest speaker one day at school, specifically a fitness advocate the school has asked to come speak to them about the importance of daily exercise. The child returns home that evening and says, "Mommy, Daddy, I need to start exercising and taking better care of myself." See how ridiculous this seems?

We have it backwards. Before we can dream about getting our children in shape, we need to get ourselves in shape. Just as we teach them manners, good study habits, and social skills and hobbies, we must teach fitness by example. If we (the parents) don't exercise and don't spend quality active time with our kids, how can we expect them to develop these skills and be able to carry them over into adulthood?

The solution to this problem starts with education, but before I educate you on how to start addressing the situation, I have to clarify the difference between activity and proper fitness. Activities such as walking, hiking, gardening, skiing, golf, tennis, and the like are wonderful ways to move our bodies and enjoy being outdoors. However, they do little to increase our fitness levels, improve our health, and burn calories towards losing weight. We, as a country, are confused and use these activities as a substitute for fitness. …

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