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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Physical Inactivity "global pandemic"

7-18-12: In one of my many health newsletters that I receive, there was an article on how physical inactivity has become a global pandemic. This was a report on a news release covering a series on physical activity that was produced by The Lancet, published July 18, 2012.

Here is an excerpt: "Newswise — HOUSTON – (July 18, 2012) – The high prevalence and consequences of physical inactivity should be recognized as a global pandemic, according to a new publication by Harold W. Kohl, III, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at The University of Texas School of Public Health, part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

“Physical inactivity continues to be undervalued among people who can make a difference despite evidence of its health benefits and the evident cost burden posed by present levels of physical inactivity globally,” said Kohl, who is also with the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at the UT School of Public Health.

The paper is the fifth and final paper in The Lancet “Series on Physical Activity” published this week and outlines key strategies and resources needed to make physical activity a global public health priority. “This series emphasizes the need to focus on population physical activity levels as an outcome, not just decreasing obesity,” said Kohl, professor of kinesiology at The University of Texas at Austin."

 What solutions do the researchers suggest to tackle this global pandemic of sedentarianism?

1.  Increased prioritizing of physical activity across multiple sectors of influence including health, transportation, sports, education and business.

2. Focus especially on countries with low-to-middle incomes, where rapid economic and social improvements will decrease their physical activity demands of daily life.

3. Take a multi-sector, systems-and-community-wide approach to physical activity promotion to increase population levels of activity worldwide rather than efforts focused on individual health. Leaving efforts in the healthcare/patient education arena where we focus on individual change is NOT going to be enough, given the rate of this pandemic.  The researchers say that, “Improvements must happen at every level including planning and policy, leadership and advocacy and workforce training.”

For most of my 20 years working "in the trenches" of lifestyle medicine and health promotion and education, I have focused on changing individual behaviors, but maybe it's time to see how we can impact the larger picture through policy and environmental changes. We'll see how that happens in the next 20 years of my career! ;-)

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