News from the American College of Sports Medicine:
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), awaited amid much speculation for its impact on the act’s ongoing implementation, changes nothing about one fundamental truth, according to medical experts and scientists. Leaders of the American College of Sports Medicine point to physical activity and exercise as a powerful prescription for what’s ailing the U.S. citizenry, health system and economy. There is widespread and bipartisan support in Congress for effective steps in preventing disease rather than trying to pay for treating people after they get sick, including major promotion of physical activity and healthy lifestyles.
“Americans’ lack of exercise will cause seven million early deaths in this decade, according the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services,” said Janet Walberg Rankin, Ph.D., ACSM president and an associate dean at Virginia Tech. “With chronic diseases—including heart disease, stroke and diabetes—responsible for seven out of 10 deaths, and with physical activity and exercise shown to help prevent and treat more than 40 chronic conditions, healthy lifestyles must be a part of the health care equation.”
“It’s good medicine, it’s sound science, and it’s an economic necessity,” said Robert Sallis, M.D., FACSM, a physician with Kaiser Permanente and past president of ACSM who chairs the Exercise is Medicine global health initiative. “Chronic diseases account for 75 percent of the nation’s health care spending. Increased physical activity can play a powerful role in treating these problems and, even better, in preventing them from occurring in the first place. If the benefits of exercise could be captured in pill form, it would be the most widely prescribed drug in the world.”
Walberg Rankin and Sallis recommend that, given the ability of physical activity and exercise to help people of any age or health status gain and maintain better health, these considerations should be central to any discussion on health policy. “Governments worldwide, from the community level to national legislatures, are wising up to what businesses are already finding out,” said Sallis. “Keeping people healthy has a profound impact on the bottom line. Lack of physical activity has an estimated cost of $223 billion to $381 billion per year, which is now going to treat preventable diseases.” Exercise can cost next to nothing, with enjoyable activities such as walking available to almost anyone.
“Beyond the avoidable cost in health care dollars, we need to look at the loss of worker productivity and the impact of non-communicable diseases on families and on individual quality of life,” said Walberg Rankin. “Research shows that physically active people have fewer hospital stays and physician visits. Our nation—and every community, workplace and organization—must act on the growing evidence base supporting Exercise is Medicine and collectively shift focus from overspending to treat preventable diseases to keeping people healthy. That’s a proven prescription for individual health and America’s bottom line.”