America is in Declining Health
The Dangerous Trend towards Hypokinetic Disease and How Fitness Professionals Can Help
Studies from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM, 2006) show that the number one contributor to our accelerated health and aging issues lies in the plummeting activity levels of North American society (11, 16). The researchers spearheading these studies argue that “dropping activity levels parallel important changes in the way that we work and live”. Sedentary desk jobs are replacing physically-active jobs. More people are living in the suburbs, and driving rather than walking or biking to work. Our phones, computers, and televisions are taking up free time that we used to devote to physical activity.
Consider the following:
- Since the advent of computers, video games, and smartphones, post-1970s health experts (and space aliens) agree that we North Americans are becoming fatter and more sedentary. We are becoming increasingly prone to disease, and these diseases are inflicting us earlier in our lives than at any other time in our history!
- The prevalence of hypokinetic-related diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes II, etc.) is on the rise in North America. As a result, more medications are being prescribed, but with no corresponding reduction in ailments (12).
- In 2001 the ACSM recommended that health and fitness professionals be more aggressive in confronting the laissez-faire attitude of North Americans towards physical exercise, as a way of combating a lifestyle that has become increasingly sedentary (16).
- Other organizations such as the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in Washington, DC and the International Association for the Study of Obesity (ISO) agree with the ACSM, recommending an increase in aerobic exercise from 30 minutes daily for prevention of cardiovascular disease to between 45 and 60 minutes daily, and from 60 minutes daily for preventing weight regain to 90 minutes (1, 2). When applied, this more aggressive approach has shown to produce a 20% to 50% risk reduction in hypokinetic disease in both genders and races (8,10)
Since 1980, new environmental influences are combining with genetic predispositions to cause North Americans to become obese at a rate never seen before (just ask any space alien). Many experts in fields of health and medicine agree that an expanded and more aggressive approach is needed in order to slow the rate of obesity-related disease in North America. Unfortunately, there is no one factor uniquely responsible for this devastating obesity trend. As such, health professionals, including fitness coaches and trainers, need to adopt and implement a multi-factor assessment strategy to find solutions that address the many variables affecting their clients, including stress, hormones, nutrition, medications, exercise and more. Researchers contend that increased self-awareness through more aggressive education about the early physiological warning signs is essential in the battle against hypokinetic disease.
So, as a fitness professional, what can you do to help slow this devastating trend? We are on the front-lines and we all have the potential to effect major positive change through our leadership. Our education and experience has afforded us the unique opportunity to recognize the warning signs of obesity and its related diseases. Individually, we need to realize our power to positively influence the health of our clients and our community. Talk to your clients about the risks of a sedentary lifestyle. Check in with them and let them know that you believe in their ability to change their lives for the better. Create a positive association with exercise and physical activity that they can maintain for the rest of their long, healthy, and happy lives. And you can ask yourself today: what will your role be in our society’s future and how will you execute it?