By Doug Morin
Executive Director, Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine, Indio
Most people know that sitting around all day is not good for your health, whether you’re in a car, at a desk, or watching television on the couch. You know you should be moving around and stretching your legs occasionally, but you’re probably either too busy or not in the mood to work out in the summer heat. Do you know that physical inactivity is linked to increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer? The World Health Organization guidelines urge people to work out at least 150 physically active minutes each week (about 21 minutes a day), but in the U.S. only 21% of our population meets the minimum.
The latest statistics in a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics released on August 3 are alarming. The average weight of men in the U.S. has grown from 181 pounds to 196 since 1988, but their height remained the same at about 5’9”, and the average woman expanded from 152 pounds to 169 while keeping a height just under 5’4”in the same time span. When looked at by race, African Americans gained the most on average. African American women added 22 pounds despite staying the same average height. African American men grew about one-fifth of an inch, but added 18 pounds, the study found. Anthony Comuzzie, an obesity researcher and scientist with the department of genetics at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, has commented that a 15 to 16-pound weight gain is fairly significant, and the U.S population is still gaining weight at a rapid rate. This doesn’t bode well for the overall health of the nation.
How can we fix us? It’s basic physics: if energy consumed is greater than energy expended, you’ll gain weight. If you’re going to eat a lot of calories, you should do enough exercise to burn the calories off or else they’ll turn into fat globules under your skin. There are lots of calorie counters online – just Google “calories.” Dietitians say you can safely lose 3 or more pounds a week at home with a healthy diet and lots of exercise. If you burn 500 more calories than you eat every day for a week, you should lose about 1-2 pounds. If you want to lose weight faster, you’ll need to eat less and exercise more. For instance, if you take in 1,050 to 1,200 calories a day, and exercise for one hour per day, you could lose 3-5 pounds in the first week. It’s very important not to cut calories any further — that’s dangerous. In this August heat you might want to invest in an inexpensive gym membership so you can work out in their air conditioning without breaking the bank. Or get up early and walk, run or jog before the sun gets brutal.