National fitness has been an issue for a very long time. In the mid-1950s, an international study found that American children were far less fit than children in other countries, and this prompted President Eisenhower to start the President’s Council on Youth Fitness. The Council didn’t have much impact though, so years later, after Sports Illustrated published “The Soft American”, President John F. Kennedy revised the Council, and it was later renamed the Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, focusing on fitness programs in public schools.
That wasn’t enough. Americans are still not physically fit in comparison with most of the world. A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine ranked U.S. youth fitness at 47 out of 50 countries studied. Countries in Africa and Central-Northern Europe scored the best. Some South American countries managed to score lower than the U.S. though — at least we’re not completely at the bottom.
That’s only the youth. Older Americans score poorly also. Another study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health compared older Americans against some European countries, and found that 60% of Americans were inactive, compared with 42% of Dutch and 32% of English participants. The study concluded that different societal standards of what constitutes physical activity exist in various countries, and that our American standard is relatively low.
Now the health and fitness message is getting out in America, at least somewhat. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), U.S. adults are more physically active than they were 20 years ago. Still, we have a long way to go. The question is: are you active? Are you getting enough exercise to maintain or build your health? Since Americans apparently have a low bar as to what constitutes a healthy level of exercise, let’s consider some objective standards.
Just the facts…
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services produces the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, in which guidelines for activity for children, adults, and older adults are listed. These are the adult guidelines:
• For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.
• Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
• Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.
And what are their guidelines for older adults, adults with chronic conditions or disabilities? They are the same, with the addition of the phrase “who are able…” As they state, “When adults with chronic conditions or disabilities are not able to meet the above key guidelines, they should engage in regular physical activity according to their abilities and should avoid inactivity.”
So, the minimum goals for adults are the same whether sick or healthy, but you should not go beyond your abilities. Strengthening takes time. Disease is not an excuse for inactivity if you are able to become more active. The Guidelines also state, “Today, about half of all American adults—117 million people—have one or more preventable chronic diseases.” Notice the word “preventable” there? The CDC lists these conditions in which regular physical activity reduces risk: obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety, dementia, and even many types of cancer. With regular exercise, you may never experience these diseases; and if you have a chronic condition, you may be able to reduce or reverse the condition.
The American College of Sports Medicine published a review article in ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal which took data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) showing that 46.3% of adults do not meet the minimum standards in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. This is despite “Leading a physically active lifestyle and achieving higher levels of cardiovascular fitness have been associated with increased life expectancy and reduced mortality.” Also given in the article is a formal definition of exercise as “a structured or planned form of physical activity.”
This last statement is vital, for without a structured and planned program, everyday activities will take over and you won’t be able to sustain even the minimum Guideline’s level of activity. Also as noted in an article published in Human Kinetics, 50% of people who start an exercise program will drop out within the first six months. Exercise is, to use the running analogy, a marathon, not a sprint.
All lifestyle choices either improve health or promote decline. The good lifestyle choices require a degree of dedication, because the easiest path is the downhill path. There are many reasons why many don’t start or soon abandon an exercise program: not enough time, motivation, and out of line expectations are just some. Lack of time is a problem of what you make time for: you can’t do everything you want, so you have to set priorities. If exercise helps you stave off chronic diseases down the road, your investment of time now could pay you back in more time — quality time — months or years later. If you aren’t motivated after reading this, do your own research into the value of exercise. If you are expecting to become an athlete or lose a lot of weight in a month from your exercise program, you are probably shooting too high: exercise works, but it takes time, so set little goals to encourage yourself when you meet them. And if you are working out with a good professional staff, your likelihood of continuing is high because of their motivation and accountability.
Yes, exercise will take time out of many of your days, is sometimes hard work, and is not always fun, but the benefits are tremendous. If you form the habit of exercise, it becomes easier and you will miss it when you have to skip a day. One way to stay motivated is taking a friend — many of us are more motivated in community. Put a visual reminder in your daily path — a note or picture of you exercising on the mirror, or on the inside of your front door so you see it on your way out. Find a way of rewarding yourself for following through, such as doing some pleasurable activity after your workout. Make yourself accountable to others who will ask you if you did your routine today. Don’t try to do everything on one day, but try to make today just a little bit better than yesterday — make tiny improvements and keep making them, because they add up over time.
Americans have set a low bar. It’s not that hard to get ahead of the average, because the majority are not even minimally physically fit. Do it for any number of reasons — longevity, strength, energy during the day, avoiding sedentary lifestyle diseases, better alertness at work, or losing weight are just some of the reasons. This isn’t controversial: exercise is good for your health. You just have to do it, because no one can do it for you.
Dr. Nemec’s Review
Exercise is one of the top three lifestyle activities that will transform your health and your life.
Exercise is not an option, the same way breathing air, drinking water or eating food is not an option. The body was meant to move. If it does not move, it does not live.
“Sitting is the new smoking” seemed like a dramatic statement when it was first stated by James A. Levine, MD, PhD. But many researchers are now in agreement.
The amount of time many Americans spend sitting down each day – whether at a desk, in a car, in front of a computer, or for relaxing time – creates health risks similarly to those caused by smoking. Dr. Levine is the director of the Mayo Clinic’s Obesity Solutions Initiative and he believes that people lose two hours of life for every hour they spend sitting. “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, and kills more people than HIV. We are sitting ourselves to death,” says Levine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. This is nearly one in five deaths.
Are you starting to understand the importance of movement and exercise? Many see exercise as an accessory, an extra that isn’t really necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth. How long can you hold your breath — maybe three minutes or more, then you would die. How about going without water — seven days is the max, and then you die.
What about going without food? Depends on your body weight. If you’re thin, after 30 days of not eating, your body will start digesting internal organs, and you will die.
What about exercise? I thought it was an accessory — not a necessary option.
Let’s use logic here. If sitting is worse than smoking, and smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, what does this mean about inactivity?
If you want to kill yourself, slowly, just don’t move enough — it’ll be worse than smoking, with more diseases and disability than smoking.
Many people in life have a misperception of exercise because they’ve never really done it, and every time they try, it’s hard to do, they don’t enjoy it, and it takes up too much time — so they dismiss it as it’s not absolutely necessary.
This research is showing that it is absolutely necessary. If you don’t move, you die, simple as that. Not only do you die, you die of diseases like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes — just to name a few.
Are you starting to get the point yet?
Movement is as important as breathing, drinking water, and eating. These are things you must do every day if you want to stay alive and healthy — they’re not optional and neither is exercise.
We had a patient coming to Revolution New Medicine with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease, and upon consultation. I asked her a number of questions. She ate fairly healthily. She took supplements. She did not go to bed very late. She loved her job. She did not feel stressed in any way, she really enjoyed her life. But she was shocked that in an early age (in her early 40s) she was diagnosed with advanced multiple sclerosis.
My job was and is to find out why — what factor or factors triggered the onset of disease?
After asking her many many questions about her health, I finally found it, the greatest stressor on her system that was probably instrumental in triggering her disease. And this was the question I asked her:
How often do you exercise?
There was a quietness in the room, and then after about 15 seconds she spoke with this response: “I don’t think I’ve ever exercised in my whole life except for maybe whatever was mandatory in grade school.”
I went on to ask her why, and her response was, “I never saw this as very important. My parents never exercised growing up, and my body weight was always really good, so I felt there was no need to exercise.”
One of the major triggers of all disease is lack of movement, because when you move, you bring oxygen and nutrients to the cells rapidly, and you also remove carbon dioxide and waste products rapidly. If you do not exercise and move, you stagnate the fluids around the cells, and they start to die prematurely; or even worse, mutate in order to survive in a deficient and toxic environment. This is what we call cancer.
I think you now are starting to see the big picture. Exercise must be a part of your life whether you like it or not; but once you start, being consistent and developing habits, you will learn to love exercise because of what it does for you, how it makes you feel alive and refreshed — and energized.
So start exercising today. Write a plan. Start with cardiovascular exercise first. This is brisk walking, treadmill walking, swimming or fast pace biking. Pick your exercises, but do them every day for an average of 45 minutes every day. This is not excessive. This is bare minimum.
With exercise, more is better, always, as long as it’s not too much at high intensity.
If we go back two thousand years ago, cars and bicycles had not been yet invented. Most people walked everywhere. When Jesus and his disciples went town to town, city to city, they walked most of the day. This is at least eight hours a day. When the apostle Paul set up new churches in different areas of the world, he too walked 8 hours a day, every day — many times 12 hours a day. No sitting here — there was nothing but movement half of the day.
Throughout most of history, when people wanted to go somewhere, they walked and walked and walked. This was the designed way, a built-in exercise that was never an option.
So let’s get back to basics, let’s get back to movement, and we will find a whole new passion that we didn’t even know existed.
A new desire to exercise because we feel so good when we do it.
Don’t think about it today, just go and do it. And keep doing it until it becomes a routine habit. Whether this be six weeks or six months, it’ll eventually become a part of you. IF, IF, IF you don’t quit, stop, or give up — this is the key.
Here are the ways we can help you in your health journey:
- Outpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-has the most benefit of teaching, treatment, live classes and personalized coaching. This program has the most contact with Dr. Nemec with 3- 6 month programs that can be turned into a regular checking and support program for life. This is our core program that has helped so many restore their health and maintain that restoration for years.
- Inpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-is our four-week intensive inpatient program for those that are not in driving distance, usually over 4 hour drive. This is the program that is an intensive jumpstart with treatment, teaching, live classes and coaching designed for all our international patients along with those in the US that do not live in Illinois. This program is very effective especially when combined with our new membership program support.
- Stay at Home Program-is offered to continental US patients who cannot come to Total Health Institute but still want a more personal, customized plan to restore their health. This program also includes our Learn Membership Program.
- Membership Program is our newest program offered for those that want to work on their health at a high level and want access to the teaching at Total Health Institute along with the Forums: both Dr. Nemec’s posts and other members posting. And also, to have the chance to get personalized questions answered on the conference calls which are all archived in case you miss the call. The Membership Program has 3 levels to choose from: Learn, Overcome and Master. The difference is at the Overcome and Master levels you received one on one calls with Dr. Nemec personalizing your program for your areas of focus.