problems such as obesity and overweight have reached truly epidemic
proportions in the United States. In the last 10 years, obesity
rates have increased by more than 60 percent among adults. In 1999,
61 percent of the adult population was either overweight or obese.
The obesity epidemic impacts other diseases as well. For example,
the incidence of type 2 diabetes, a major consequence of obesity, is
on the rise. Among U.S. adults, diagnosed diabetes increased 49
percent from 1990 to 2000.
The rate of
increase in overweight among young people has been even steeper.
This is particularly troubling since many of the behaviors that lead
to adult obesity are established during childhood. Just 10 years
ago, type 2 diabetes was virtually unknown in children and
adolescents. Indeed, the medical community commonly referred to the
condition as "adult onset diabetes." Today, it accounts
for almost 50 percent of new cases of pediatric diabetes in some
communities. Medical complications associated with obesity in
children can lead to hospitalizations for type 2 diabetes, sleep
apnea, and asthma. Since 1980, the percentage of children who are
overweight has nearly doubled, and the percentage of adolescents who
are overweight has nearly tripled. Almost 9 million young Americans,
or about 15 percent of all children, are overweight.
and old should incorporate regular physical activity into their
everyday lives. This does not necessarily mean joining an expensive
gym or committing to a rigorous exercise or training routine. It is
sufficient to choose activities that fit into your daily routine
that speed your heart rate and breathing, or increase your strength
and flexibility. Examples include walking to work, gardening, taking
extra stairs, or mowing the lawn with a push mower. Besides building
strength and aerobic fitness, regular exercise relieves stress,
provides motivation, promotes relaxation, and facilitates sleep.
Such activity reduces the risk of dying of coronary heart disease
and decreases the risk for colon cancer, diabetes, and high blood
activity is important throughout life. Healthy lifestyles are more
influential than genetic factors in avoiding deterioration
traditionally associated with aging. The growing number of older
Americans places increasing demands on the public health system and
on medical and social services. Currently, almost one-third of total
U.S. health care expenditures are for older adults. These
expenditures are largely due to treatment and care of chronic
diseases, and the cost associated with many of these conditions
could be reduced through regular physical activity.
almost any physical activity is sufficient as long as they are
moving. Playing actively or participating in athletic or physical
fitness activities during school, running, biking, jumping rope, and
dancing— instead of watching television or playing video games—
all provide children with the kinds of activity they need.
and Physical Activity
to you by the Executive Office of the President and the Department
of Health and Human Services.
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