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Regular Physical Activity: Forgotten Benefits

      Both men and women who engage in regular physical activity experience statistically significant and clinically important reductions in the risk of dying from coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
      • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
      The Surgeon General's Vision for a Health and Fit Nation 2010.
      Physical activity also reduces the risks of developing diabetes, hypertension, and colon cancer; enhances mental health; improves muscle, bone, and joint health, and helps maintain function and preserve independence in older adults.
      • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
      The Surgeon General's Vision for a Health and Fit Nation 2010.
      In fact, regular physical activity may ameliorate many of the emerging and increasingly prevalent clinical, public health, and fiscal challenges that accompany the “Graying of America.” For example, today, 24% of the US population is 50 years of age and over, and 17 million are aged between 75 and 85 years, a number estimated to grow to 30 million during the next 30 years.

      US Census Bureau. The older population in the United States: 2010-2050 population estimates and projections. Available at: https://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/p25-1138.pdf. Accessed June 18, 2015.

      Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging. A profile of older Americans. Available at: http://www.aoa.gov/Aging_Statistics/Profile/2013/docs/2013_Profile.pdf. Accessed June 18, 2015.

      Brisk walking every day for only about 20 minutes, which can be practiced even among the oldest old, confers a 30%-40% reduced risk of myocardial infarction.
      • Manson J.E.
      • Hu F.B.
      • Rich-Edwards J.W.
      • et al.
      A prospective study of walking as compared with vigorous exercise in the prevention of coronary heart disease in women.
      In the US today, 18% of the gross national product of about $2.64 trillion is spent on health care, which is about double the proportion of other developed countries. Of that total, Medicare accounts for 21%, or $554 billion. Most alarmingly, of that total, 28%, or about $170 billion, is spent on health care during the last 6 months of life.

      The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Healthcare spending in the United States. Available at: http://kff.org/health-costs/issue-brief/snapshots-health-care-spending-in-the-united-states-selected-oecd-countries. Accessed June 25, 2014.

      In this context, it is important to note that physical inactivity accounts for about 2.4% of US health care expenditures, or approximately $24 billion a year.
      • US Task Force on Community Preventive Services
      Recommendations to increase physical activity in communities.
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      References

        • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
        The Surgeon General's Vision for a Health and Fit Nation 2010.
        U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, Rockville, MDJanuary 2010
      1. US Census Bureau. The older population in the United States: 2010-2050 population estimates and projections. Available at: https://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/p25-1138.pdf. Accessed June 18, 2015.

      2. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging. A profile of older Americans. Available at: http://www.aoa.gov/Aging_Statistics/Profile/2013/docs/2013_Profile.pdf. Accessed June 18, 2015.

        • Manson J.E.
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        • et al.
        A prospective study of walking as compared with vigorous exercise in the prevention of coronary heart disease in women.
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      3. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Healthcare spending in the United States. Available at: http://kff.org/health-costs/issue-brief/snapshots-health-care-spending-in-the-united-states-selected-oecd-countries. Accessed June 25, 2014.

        • US Task Force on Community Preventive Services
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      4. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, updated 2015. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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