Use It or Lose It!

Who can forget that song from the 1980s about nobody walking in L.A? It turns out that far too many seemingly took it to heart. People just don’t walk that much these days…let alone bicycle, swim or engage in other forms of movement that does a body good. America has become a car driving, desk riding, TV watching, video game playing, Internet surfing, elevator taking, fast food eating society. Is it any wonder that we are fighting a veritable epidemic of obesity, when pressing the buttons on the TV remote, clicking the mouse, and handing the fast food drive-through clerk money is the extent of our “exercise.”

Researchers, again, have recently underscored the severity of the problem this lack of activity is posting to our nation’s collective health. According to an October 2005 press release issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health, a recent Framingham Heart Study shows that “we [Americans] could have an even more serious degree of overweight and obesity over the next few decades” and that “If the trend continues, our country will continue to face substantial health problems related to excess weight.” In response to these findings, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Director Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D. boils it down to this: “taking simple steps to make sure that the overall the number of calories you consume do not exceed the amount you burn can play a major role in lowering your risk for many chronic conditions. How is this done? You guessed it…exercise!

Even with the knowledge of study findings and other health news-making events, it seemingly goes in one ear and out the other. People continue on the same unhealthy track despite medical warnings about lack of activity. The study’s leading researcher and Boston University Medical Professor, Dr. Ramachandran Vasan, cited a litany of dramatic, life-altering conditions that can be experienced from lack of activity. Even with the threat of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and osteoarthritis, most of us still do not budge from the sofa unless we absolutely, positively have to.

For those who really do wish they were more active, it can, admittedly, be difficult to put that desire into action. In today’s fast paced society, many of us cannot find time to sit down as a family for dinner let alone get in the car and drive to and from the gym. Even with the best of intentions, many with home gym equipment end up using the devices as (very expensive) clothes racks. With enough stuff piled on it and shielding it from view, perhaps they don’t feel guilty when passing it by on the way from the couch to the refrigerator to bed.

Others who do have the time to get to the gym may feel intimidated by all of the strange equipment. Some feel uncomfortable next to the cute girl in spandex who looks like she doesn’t even belong at the gym, not to mention the beefy guy snarling in front of the mirror as his biceps appear poised to explode. And, while some can afford to hire a personal trainer, many must venture into this unfamiliar territory on their own. This can lead to ineffective workouts, a serial lack of motivation or, worse, injuries. Soon after any of these events, enthusiasm naturally drops and it’s just your credit or debit card that it’s getting a workout as the gym continues to charge – whether you show up or not.

On the upside (sort of), the spike in gasoline prices has got a few people moving a bit more. Recent news reports indicate more people riding their bicycles to work and, yes, even walking! So if medical advice is not enough motivation, maybe a dent in our collective pocketbooks is enough to get America on its feet.

At the end of the day, it’s all about making time for something you want – make that NEED – to do. Even a minimal amount of time and effort can make a real difference when compared to no body movement whatsoever. In this case, something is indeed better than nothing.