I don’t think it comes as a surprise that physical inactivity and negative lifestyle seriously threaten and hasten the deterioration rate of the human body. But did you know that physical inactivity, which has been termed Sedentary Death Syndrome, is the second greatest threat to U.S. public health? It is important to note that this is a lifestyle-related issue. In fact, all of the top three causes of death in the U.S. are largely lifestyle-related: cardiovascular disease comes in at number one, cancer at number two position, and chronic lower respiratory disease is third. Of these top three, the big three underlying causes of those deaths are tobacco use, poor diet and inactivity, and alcohol abuse.
If we just look at cancer alone, 80% of its cause is lifestyle related. More than 30% of that is caused by smoking, while another 33% of all cancer deaths are related to poor nutrition, physical inactivity, excessive body weight, and other faulty lifestyle habits.
Dr. David Satcher, former U.S. Surgeon General, indicated that over 50% of people who die in this country each year do so because of what they do. It’s not primarily due to our genetics or health care system, although these do play a role. Studies have shown that disease risks are over 50% lifestyle related, 21% environment related, 16% attributed to genetics, and 10% related to health care.
So what has happened to our lifestyles, and why don’t we change them if they are so detrimental to our health and well being? Part of the problem is that modern-day technology has almost completely eliminated the necessity for physical exertion in daily life. The issue is further compounded with the convenience and abundance of fast foods and processed foods, which contain high levels of trans fats and processed sugars.
But ultimately it comes down to the choices we make within this culture where fresh vegetables and walking are an inconvenience to daily living. Diet and exercise have become secondary to things such as comfort and wealth; we are over-saturated with information and lacking essential education; and we have become a society of immediate satisfaction, looking for quick fixes and answers.
As with any change, a recognition that one needs to alter their lifestyle comes first. For some of us, this may go back to priorities — even if you do not have an illness or chronic disease, who is to say your life will always be that way? Are you taking the steps to insure a long and healthy life by nourishing your body with the proper nutrients, exercise, and enjoyment?
Secondly, there needs to be a desire to change. Do you want your life to encompass health and wellness for its length? Are you ready to take responsibility for your actions and stop pointing fingers? — it was your choice to eat the corn-fed-ground-beef-fried-in-trans-fats and not the fast food restaurant you bought it from.
The truth is, is that it really does not take much in helping to prevent developing a chronic disease. As little as 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days is enough to help prevent premature death, unnecessary illness, and disability. And by simply adding more whole foods: whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to one’s diet; and taking time to de-stress can make great strides in buffering one’s health and vitality. The real effort comes from altering one’s lifestyle to incorporate these habits.
Each of us can take responsibility for our own health. Since most health issues are lifestyle related, it seems the key to our health is within us. The choice is ours.
Here a few websites that might be helpful:
* How to Fit Exercise into Your Daily Routine: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fitness/HQ01217_D
* Behavior Change Theories: http://www.csupomona.edu/jugrizzell