The sun has risen on the first day of the next 7 years: the time that Vancouver and the rest of Canada have to prepare to welcome the world to the 2010 Winter Olympics! As I drove to work recently I listened to the comments of various citizens on the radio, and the person whose comments stayed with me was the grandfather expressing his hopes that having the Olympics here would inspire his grandchildren—not to become Olympic heroes but to get more involved in sports and thus experience a healthier, happier life.
Our children these days are less and less fit and more and more obese. This is not news to physicians, but little seems to be happening to reverse the trend. In a society that is becoming increasingly technological and sedentary, most children do not have role models of physically active adults in their lives, they seldom walk anywhere due to time constraints and safety concerns, and physical education in schools seems to be something that happens if there is time. As each of my three offspring passed through high school I listened with sadness as they described friends and teammates who had decided to give up a sport or fitness activity, usually in grades 11 and 12, almost always in the hopes that the extra time spent studying would lead to higher grades and thus a better chance of the university of their choice. What an unfortunate choice to have to make—if there is no time for fitness in high school there will certainly be even less in university or when working, and thus the poor pattern is established. Wouldn’t it send a very different message to our young people if post-secondary institutions asked prospective students about fitness activities and then gave some credit for such activities toward acceptance?
How can we, as physicians, help to reverse this trend? First by setting an example to our patients, families, and the public. I frequently remind patients that we now have very good evidence that 30 to 40 minutes of walking four to five times per week is just as effective in lowering mortality rates in middle-aged females as is more intensive exercise. What fantastic news—you don’t have to be a marathoner to benefit! I just hope you don’t have to be a middle-aged female as well.
We can also encourage park boards, school boards, and post-secondary institutions to pay more than lip service to the importance of an active lifestyle. The greater variety of facilities that we provide and the more accessible we make them the more successful we will be.
So, use the stairs instead of the elevator and go out for a walk. See you there!
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Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.
About the ICMJE and citation styles
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