Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Fitness Study Exposes American Health 'Crisis'

Dr. Mercedes Carnethon says lack of exercise in the U.S. is "worrisome"

This Washington Post story reveals the grim results of a recent physical fitness survey conducted across the United States.

In what is likely the first glimpse at the state of physical fitness among Americans conducted, the study, led by Northwestern University Preventative Medicine Professor Dr. Mercedes R. Carnethon, found that a significant number of adults and adolescents are too out of shape to even walk on a treadmill.

Of the 5,300 Americans between the ages of 12 and 49 in the survey, one out of every five participants failed to display adequate healthy cardiovascular fitness. The researchers said that number includes one-third of the teenagers and about 14 percent of 20-somethings failing the fitness tests.

This translates into millions upon millions of people living in the U.S. today who are classified as out of shape.

The researchers conclude that a sedentary lifestyle because of life's luxuries such as computers, the Internet, video games, television and more all contribute to a lessened emphasis on physical activity which then leads to a host of health problems such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and even death.

The study was published in the December 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Carnethon said her researchers had already assumed that physical fitness was poor, but said "no one had ever documented before how poor fitness actually is across the population in the United States."

"What we found is pretty worrisome," she exclaimed.

Yeah, I'd say so. Before I started livin' la vida low-carb, I was one of those adult Americans who would have failed miserably on ANY fitness test. Exercise was indeed a foreign concept to me. But that had to quickly change if I was going to make a meaningful difference in my weight and health and change it did.

After losing about 30 pounds in my first month on low-carb in January 2004, I embarked on an exercise routine that I can proudly say I am still on today. What started off as a dreadfully painful 3mph, 20-minute trek on the treadmill that first day has now become an inviting and energizing 45 minute workout on the elliptical DAILY! Yes, I said daily. As in EVERY SINGLE DAY! :)

While that may seem impossible, especially if you are used to getting ZERO exercise, let me tell you that you can and will surprise yourself once you make exercise a part of your routine. It is such a great way to help your body burn fat, relieve stress, and maximize the effectiveness of your diet. I could not have been the 190-pound weight loss success I have been had it not been for exercise.

It's NEVER too late for you to start exercising. I wasted the first 32 years of my life thinking there was no redeeming value in exercise. I wish I hadn't waited so long to get my body moving, my heartbeat racing and my forehead sweating. Every time I do this I know I am making an investment in my current and future health. Those deposits I have been making are paying off in increased energy, stamina, and cardiovascular vigor. I'm as healthy as I have ever been in my entire life right now! That's a GREAT feeling, let me tell you!

But the bad news of this survey is even worse considering the rise in the number of teens and young adults who are not physically fit.

"Individuals with poor fitness are at markedly higher rate of dying," Dr. Carnethon said. "We should be very concerned about this."

Concerned indeed. My doctor told me last year in the midst of my weight loss that had I not started losing weight and exercising that I was on a one-way ticket to an early grave. Uh, hello! WAKE UP WAKE UP! That'll get your attention lickity-split and gave me an even greater determination to remain focused on losing weight and improving my health. You're not supposed to die young when you've got your whole life ahead of you. I was driven to NOT allow that to happen to me.

Interestingly, those study participants who couldn't handle the treadmill also just so happened to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and either overweight or obese -- symptoms of the #1 killer of Americans today, heart disease.

"That was one of the most striking findings," Dr. Carnethon noted. "We were surprised how many people already have significant risk factors."

What is so amazing is how much all of those factors can improve with a nutritional way of eating such as low-carb combined with regular exercise. Getting healthy is not as difficult as people make it out to be, but you have to make up your mind that you are ready to do it for real before it will ever happen. I reached that point and I'm never looking back!

The teenagers in the study have Dr. Carnethon worried about "major health problems later in life" for them because they are not getting the exercise they need for their bodies to remain in optimum health.

Dr. James O. Hill from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado, who is one of the co-founders of the National Weight Control Registry, said this is a real "crisis" that should be a major "wake-up call" for Americans regarding the health of our society.

"This really points out that the low level of physical activity in our population is leading to a lot of kids and adults having low fitness levels, and those low fitness levels are related to a lot of bad outcomes," Dr. Hill revealed. "We haven't been able to communicate to the public what a crisis this is. It's scary. Maybe this will be a wake-up call."

What's even scarier is that the number could actually be a whole lot worse because they did not take into account those adults who could not be tested because their health problems were so bad.

"I think we should be very worried," Carnethon said. "We have an obesity epidemic already. This is another explanation for that. And it doesn't seem as though the trends are changing for the better. We see decreasing levels of physical activity across all age groups."

This really is a crisis that needs to be taken as a challenge for each individual in this country. Do you care enough about the health of yourself to make it happen? Stop making excuses about why you don't exercise because none of them are good enough. Admit to yourself that you have been a lazy bum and you've rationalized your way out of exercising to take the easy way out. NEWSFLASH: THERE IS NO EASY BUTTON!

Sure it will be hard at first, but it is NOT impossible. I wrote at great length in an entire chapter of my book about the importance of exercise to an effective weight loss program. This is non-negotiable and cannot be compromised. Do you care about your health or the health of your children? Then YOU will be the shining example for others to see and learn from. Take the lead and don't look back. Exercise can and will become a part of your life -- FOREVER!!! And that's a good thing! :)

You can write to Dr. Mercedes R. Carnethon to thank her for sharing this enlightening study by sending her an e-mail at


Blogger The Low Carb Runner said...

As I mentioned elsewhere before dieting and exercise I couldn't walk 100 feet without breathing hard. Now 100lbs lighter and working out often, I am able to run sub 30 minute 5k and sub 60 minute 10k races. Just because you are overweight now, if you diet and lose weight and start slowly you too can see results during your workout.

12/24/2005 12:44 AM  

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