Lose Weight, Live Longer

by : Janet Martin

Physical inactivity is killing thousands of Americans by putting them at risk for heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and colon cancer.

The Weight Control Information Network of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases said lack of exercise costs the American nation about $24.3 billion in preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services, and has increased the number of overweight and obese adults who are candidates for the above diseases.

Obesity currently affects over 64 million American adults who are also in danger of suffering from uterine, kidney, colorectal and gallbladder cancer. The problem doesn't happen overnight. It is the result of an energy imbalance, meaning too many calories are consumed and there is little or no physical activity.

"Genetics and the environment may increase the risk of personal weight gain. However, the choices a person makes in eating and physical activity also contributes to overweight and obesity. Behavior can increase a person's risk for gaining weight," said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Just how inactive are Americans? Experts said only 26 percent of adults engage in vigorous physical activity lasting 10 minutes or more. Fifty-nine percent of adults do nothing at all.

"About 25 percent of young people (age 12 to 21) participate in light-to-moderate activity (e.g., walking, bicycling) nearly every day. About 50 percent regularly engage in vigorous physical activity. Approximately 25 percent report no vigorous physical activity, and 14 percent report no recent vigorous or light-to-moderate physical activity," said the Weight Control Information Network.

"Despite all the benefits of being physically active, most Americans are sedentary. Technology has created many time and labor saving products. Some examples include cars, elevators, computers, dishwashers, and televisions. Cars are used to run short distance errands instead of people walking or riding a bicycle. As a result, these recent lifestyle changes have reduced the overall amount of energy expended in our daily lives. According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, in 2000 more than 26 percent of adults reported no leisure time physical activity," the CDC added.

To add years to your life, start losing weight now. It will make you look better and feel better. But don't expect miracles. Losing weight takes time, effort, and discipline. As long as you stick to your goal - which is to become a better and healthy person, you will succeed. To get you started, here are some tips from the US Surgeon General:

> Aim for a healthy weight. People who need to lose weight should do so gradually, at a rate of one-half to two pounds per week.

> Be active. The safest and most effective way to lose weight is to reduce calories and increase physical activity.

> Eat well. Select sensible portion sizes and follow the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans."

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