The Affordable Care Act, Fitness & You

To say that health insurance, the Affordable Care Act, Health and Human Services, healthcare costs and their connection to politics and taxes are current hot button issues would be a gigantic understatement.  There are lots of predictions coming from all directions regarding what healthcare will look like for the average American in the coming years and decades.  My sense is no one really knows what it will look like a year from now, let alone 5 to 10 years from now.  And the terms chaotic, confusing, worrisome and volatile best describe where we are with all of this today.

Speaking from the perspective of someone who is an organized planner to a fault, this is especially unsettling to me.  My husband and I have had several conversations about what it is we should be doing right now to best prepare our family for whatever changes lie ahead.  I doubt we are the only family asking these same questions and brainstorming strategies.  It all comes down to this: the reason this is frightening is because there is so little of this the individual family has any control over.  So, the way forward is to control the variables surrounding your health and, by extension, your healthcare that you can control.  And here is where fitness comes in.

Here are the cold, hard facts*:

  • Obesity and/or a sedentary lifestyle contribute to an increased risk of over 20 chronic diseases including: cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, dementia (including Alzheimer’s), some cancers (including endometrial, breast & colon), stroke, osteoporosis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems and high total cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Obesity puts people at higher risk to develop musculoskeletal problems that effect quality of life, work productivity, and the ability to engage in exercise programs that would reduce the risk of chronic diseases.  Furthermore, surgery is often the recommended solution for these ailments when other forms of treatment don’t alleviate the symptoms.  The most common of these issues are: low-back pain, hip and knee pain/dysfunction and plantar fasciitis.
  • Recent studies have shown that people who sit more than 4 hours a day (at a desk, behind the wheel, or consuming entertainment) had a 50% increased risk of death from any cause and a 125% increased risk of cardiovascular disease.  Even more alarming – the increased risks were not offset by a few hours a week of moderate to vigorous exercise.
  • Excessive alcohol increases the risk of many cancers including liver, colon and breast.  While low to moderate consumption of alcohol has been linked to lower risk of heart disease.  Therefore, the recommended limit is 1 drink or less per day for adult women and 2 drinks or less per day for adult men.
  • 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week reduces the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, hypertension, some cancers and several other chronic diseases.  Specifically, 150 weekly minutes of moderate exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by 20% and lowers systolic blood pressure by an average of 2-6 mmHg.  While 75 weekly minutes of vigorous exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30%.

Becoming fit can’t be about how you look or what dress size you are anymore.  It’s all about adopting a lifestyle that gives you the best chance to avoid the most common ailments and diseases so that you can be less dependent upon a dysfunctional and costly healthcare system.  You can’t control your genes, the whims of the federal government or the market tactics the private healthcare sector will take to stay in business.  But you can control what and how much food and drink you consume, how much you sit and how much you move.

Take a look around you, read a few headlines – do you really want any of the people in the headlines to have the final say in what, who and how much you and your children will be allowed to receive in terms of healthcare?  Seize control of your health so that you have a say.  And the time to seize that control is now.

*References: www.cdc.org, www.mayoclinic.com, www.acefitness.org

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