Janet Walberg Rankin, Ph.D., and Robert Sallis, M.D., submitted this Op/Ed letter on August 15, 2012 to news outlets nationwide. Letter to the Editor: Physical activity – a daily staple
The 2012 London Olympics were a feast. Nobody with a hunger for sports, national rivalries or stories of individual struggle and accomplishment should have left the table unsatisfied. The Games served up a bounty of the very best.
After the feast, though, we need good, daily nutrition. Seeing the world’s best athletes break records and vie for top honors, we can take their example and weave physical activity, exercise and sport into our daily lives. There’s only one Usain Bolt, but millions of us run full-tilt through our careers and family life. The gymnastic magic of Gabby Douglas can inspire our headlong tumble through competing obligations and the flexibility to get it all done.
Translating Olympic activities into everyday life is more than a metaphor. With sedentary lifestyles linked to one in four deaths from non-communicable diseases, and with preventable conditions consuming unsustainable portions of health care costs, we must act individually and as a society to keep ourselves fit and healthy.
Food for thought
The facts are undeniable, and the evidence continues to mount. As the Games were poised to begin, no less an authority than The Lancet published a series of articles that underscore the extraordinary peril of physical inactivity for global health and national economies. Experts from Harvard, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and around the world made the case for urgent action: “In view of the prevalence, global reach, and health effect of physical inactivity, the issue should be appropriately described as pandemic, with far-reaching health, economic, environmental, and social consequences.”
The reality is that the United States will not be able to grow its economy fast enough or large enough to pay for the treatment of rising levels of highly avoidable diseases and conditions, many of which are related to low levels of physical activity. This calls for collective action to encourage and enable all people to become and remain more active, whether through activities of daily living, exercise or sports.
On an individual level, we will each benefit from meeting at least minimum guidelines for physical activity. The payoff is improved health and quality of life for the individual, greater productivity in the workplace, and lower health care costs for all of us. The alternative is unthinkable.
That’s food for thought, indeed. As we push back from the table, still savoring a 17-day feast of athletics and achievement, let’s make a menu of physical activity part of our daily lives. Anything less is too hard to swallow.
Janet Walberg Rankin, Ph.D.
American College of Sports Medicine Robert Sallis, M.D.
Exercise is Medicine Global Initiative