Today’s sad reality is that physical inactivity is the new norm. Our bodies were designed for movement, but research shows that in developed and developing nations, we are becoming inactive societies. This drastic change is leading to long-term health issues and shortened life expectancies. In just 44 years (approximately 1.5 generations), physical activity in the United States has declined 32 percent and is on track for a 46 percent drop by 2030. This decline shows in the amount of time spent being physically active at work, at home, and in transportation.
This trend creates a situation that is not socially, physically, or economically sustainable, as each generation sets the example for the next generation. Positive modeling of appropriate activity early in a child’s life will help develop a lifetime of activity and contribute to a break in the generational cycle. Inactive children are likely to become inactive adults who influence their children to be inactive as well. It is shocking that the current generation is estimated to be the first with a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
Excess weight can lead to a variety of health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and obesity. Treating these conditions adds billions of dollars to the healthcare system annually. The impact of these conditions has affected the system in both direct costs through health services and treatment, and indirectly through work loss, insurance expenses, and wages.
First Lady Michelle Obama has taken the lead in the Let’s Move! campaign with community leaders, teachers, doctors, nurses, and parents in a nationwide campaign to tackle the challenge of childhood obesity. Their one very important goal is to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation. A major part of this campaign is increasing the physical activity of our children. In addition, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) developed the “Exercise is Medicine” initiative to promote the role of healthcare providers in prescribing exercise to their patients.
Exercise has been proven to help in the prevention of over 40 chronic diseases and offers a preventative solution to long-term health issues. The American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) “Move Forward” campaign promotes the role of physical therapists in bringing movement to the lives of our patients and communities. Physical therapists are natural partners when it comes to increasing activity because of their unique understanding of the musculoskeletal system and their ability to prescribe exercise for all ages and abilities.
Blending science with inspiration, a physical therapist can teach you and your child how to prevent or manage problems associated with obesity, inactivity, or being overweight. Because physical therapists receive specialized training in a variety of sciences—physiology, physics, human anatomy, and kinesiology (human movement) to name a few—they understand how the body works and how to promote safe, vigorous movement with positive health benefits, regardless of current levels of activity!