Several decades of accumulated scientific evidence dearly indicates what ballroom dancers have known for years regular, moderate-intensity physical activity gives substantial health benefits, preventing disease and enhancing the quality of our lives.
The U.S. Public Health Service has identified increased physical activity as a priority for our national health objectives for the year 2000. The campaign is called “Healthy People 2000.”
A group of experts brought together by !he U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (COC) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) reviewed !he pertinent scientific evidence and formulated the following recommendation:
Every American adult should accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate intensity physical activity over the course of most days of the week. Incorporating more activity into the daily routine is an effective way to improve health. Activities that can contribute to the 3O-minute total include walking upstairs (instead of taking the elevator), gardening, raking leaves, dancing and walking part or all of the way to or from work. The recommended 30 minutes of physical activity may also come from planned exercise or recreation such as jogging, playing tennis, swimming. and cycling (and dancing).
Aging and exercise
Over the last several years, people over 45 have been extremely health conscious flooding-the-fitness movement at a rate which dwarfs that of their younger counterparts.
The number of core fitness participants (Americans who engaged in at least one fitness activity at least 100 times during the year) increased from 37.9 million in 1987 to 45.2 million in 1990 – an increase of 19%.
However, the number of people over 45 in this more highly motivated cadre of frequent participants jumped by 36%. By contrast, the number of core fitness participants aged 18 to 34 rose by only 16%. (Source: American Sports Data, press release)
Why are so few Americans physically active?
Today’s high-tech society entices people to be inactive. Cars, television, and labor-saving devices have profoundly changed the way many people perform their jobs, take care of their homes, and use their leisure time.
Only 22% of adults engage in leisure time physical activity at the level recommended for health benefits in “Healthy People 2000.” Fully 24% of adult Americans are completely sedentary and are badly in need of more physical activity. The remaining 54% are inadequately active and they too would benefit from more physical activity.
Participation in regular physical activity appears to have gradually increased during the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, but has plateaued in recent years. Among ethnic minority populations, older persons, and those with lower incomes or levels of education, participation in regular physical activity has remained consistently low.
Have we overemphasized high-Intensity exercise?
Perhaps another reason why so few of us are physically active is that previous public health efforts to promote physical activity have overemphasized the importance of high-intensity exercise. The current low rate of participation may be explained, in part, by the perception of many people that they must engage in vigorous, continuous exercise to reap health benefits. Actually the scientific evidence dearly demonstrates that regular, moderate-intensity physical activity provides substantial health benefits.
A primary benefit of regular physical activity is protection against coronary heart disease. In addition, physical activity appears to provide some protection against several other chronic diseases such as adult-onset diabetes, hypertension, certain cancers, osteoporosis and depression. Furthermore, on average, physically active people outlive inactive people, even if they start their activity late in life.
It is estimated that more than 250,000 deaths per year in the U.S. can be attributed to lack of regular physical activity, a number comparable to the deaths attributed to other chronic disease risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, and elevated blood cholesterol.
Recognizing the benefits of physical activity is only part of the solution to this important public health problem. Many Americans will not change their lifestyles until the environmental and social barriers to physical activity are reduced or eliminated. Individuals can help to overcome these barriers by modifying their own lifestyles and by encouraging family members and friends to become more active. In addition, local, state and federal public health agencies (such as State Councils on Physical Fitness and Sports); park and recreation boards; school groups; professional organizations; and fitness and sports organizations should work together to disseminate this critical public health message and to promote national, community, worksite, and school programs that help Americans become more physically active. (Refer to Editor’s Notes) ”
This article is a synopsis of the summary statement of July 22, 1993, sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine, in cooperation with the President’s Council of1 Physical Fitness & Sports.
Exercise benefits encompass dance
Strengthens the heart
Regular exercise greatly improves the efficiency of the cardiovascular system. Numerous studies have shown that as physical activity increases, the risk of heart disease decreases. Through aerobic exercise, the heart grows stronger and the number and size of vessels of blood to the tissues increases.
Studies show a direct link between exercise and bone thickness. As activity increases, bones get stronger and the risk of fractures and osteoporosis decreases.
By lowering blood glucose levels and increasing the effectiveness of insulin. regular exercise may postpone or prevent the onset of noninsulin-dependent diabetes.
By keeping the body in better working order, physical activity may add years to your life. Studies also show that regular exercise reduces the Incidence of deaths from cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, cancer, trauma and other causes.
Encourages other healthful habits
Vigorous activity motivates individuals to upgrade other areas of their health. Physically fit people have a reduced desire to smoke, they eat a healthier diet, they are more likely to try to lose weight and they learn to deal with the stress in their lives. Individuals who are physically fit usually have a more positive outlook on life than non-exercises. In addition to facing the day with greater enthusiasm, they have more stamina and a better self-image.
Regular exercise creates a release for tension and anxiety. And, by stressing themselves regularly with exercise, physically fit people are better prepared to deal with stressful situations they encounter during the course of a work day.
Increases mental sharpness
People who exercise are able to concentrate longer, they exlu1>it greater originality of thought and they are more adept at solving problems.
Reduces cholesterol level
Studies show that people who exercise regularly lower their lipid profiles, which means that exercise aids in the reduction of total blood cholesterol. Exercise also helps to raise the high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) “good” cholesterol
Helps bum more calories
People who exercise even moderately increase their metabolic rate after meals, which
causes them to burn more calories.
Mach/April 1994 * Dancing USA