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  • Fitness is Fiscal

    by Guest Blogger | Aug 05, 2015

    Dear 2016 Presidential Candidates:

    We believe there is an issue in this campaign that so far has received only limited attention. We hope to change that by urging you include a strategy to promote increased physical activity for Americans as a central component of your health care policy platform.     

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that poor diet and physical inactivity cause over 400,000 deaths each year, yet still 68% of adults and 16.9%  of children in the United States are obese or overweight. The link between the rise in obesity and ballooning increases in health care spending could not be more apparent.  

    According to Department of Health and Human Services data, physical inactivity is responsible for between 20 and 30% of most major diseases and conditions. For example, 25-35% of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular diseases are attributed to this root cause. Similarly, 30-40% of type-2 diabetes; 30% of colon cancer; 20% of breast cancer; 20-30% of depression; 30% of falls; and 36-58% of hip fractures link back to a lack of exercise.1  The economic price of inadequate levels of inactivity is estimated at $131 billion per year2 – costs borne by federal and state governments as well as individual citizens. 

    In effect, physical fitness IS fiscal responsibility, and improving fitness by regular physical activity dramatically reduces the risk of morbidity and mortality in normal weight, overweight, and obese individuals.  

    Empowering Americans to increase their level of physical activity is part of the solution to both our health care and budgetary challenges. To this end, we urge you to include the following principals in your national health strategy:

    •    Ensure that exercise is front and center in public discussions on disease prevention, health, and wellness and that health care providers assess and review every patient’s physical activity level at every visit.  
    •    Expand research programs at the National Institutes of Health and other federal science agencies directed at sports science and physical activity matters.
    •    Promote walkability in public spaces and in the design of America’s infrastructure.
    •    Establish a regular requirement for periodically updating Physical Activity Recommendations for Americans.

    In far too many cases, preventable conditions are driving health care costs, consuming three of every four health care dollars. We can reduce demand for medical care by fostering personal responsibility within a culture of wellness, while increasing access to preventive services, including improved nutrition that keep people healthy and out of the hospital.

    We urge you to use your voice in this presidential campaign to raise these critical issues for the future of our nation.  


    Jim Whitehead
    CEO, American College of Sports Medicine

    1 2012 Advisory Committee Report, U.S. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services for the National Physical Activity Guidelines , pages E5-E17
    2 S. Carlson et al., Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases 57:315-323, 2015

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