As the population of the United States ages, it will consume more health care. Older people suffer diseases and other medical problems to a greater extent than younger people. And with health care prices continuing to rise much faster than other goods and services, the use and societal cost of health care is expected to soar in the future, according to a report released by the government in 2005 (http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/medicalexpenditures/).
The nation’s spending on medical care has been escalating for a number of decades. Health expenditures per capita (or per person) rose from $143 in 1960 to $5,670 in 2003 , yet inflation “only” increased 5-fold. Medical expenditures now consume over 15 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) compared to approximately 5 percent in 1960.
Our nation must find a way to reduce the spiraling costs of health care. The solution to this problem will not be easy, nor will it happen quickly. But we don’t have to wait for the government to facilitate significant change in our nation’s health care. What if I told you that there is something that all of us can do to reduce the spiraling costs of health care AND expand the span of healthy life AND reduce the risk of disease, injury and disability?
Physical activity is recognized as one of the most important health related behaviors because of its ability both to directly reduce the risk of several major chronic diseases and to act as the catalyst for positive changes in other risk factors (such as smoking and over-eating).
Exercise is associated with decreased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), diabetes, hypertension/high blood pressure, many cancers, stroke, depression, osteoporosis, arthritis and cognitive decline.
How important is exercise for overall health? Exercise can reduce the risk of death (from all causes) by more than 25 percent and increase life expectancy by more than two years over the population average. The health benefits of improving from an unfit status to fit are similar to the benefits (decreased mortality) smokers achieve by giving up smoking.
In many ways exercise is the antithesis of aging. Exercise can slow the loss of stamina, strength, flexibility, bone density, metabolic rate and enthusiasm for being active that seems to go with getting older. Exercise gives you the ability to maintain an independent lifestyle, extending the span of healthy life.
A president once implored the nation to “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”. Now you have to opportunity to not only do something for your country, but also for yourself…….exercise.