COLLEGE STATION Regular physical activity is good for physical and fiscal health, said Dr. Carol Rice, Texas Cooperative Extension health specialist. That’s because the lack of exercise can be expensive for both individuals and communities.
Physical inactivity helps increase the risk of coronary heart disease, colon cancer, osteoporotic fractures, diabetes and high blood pressure, and breast cancer to the tune of about $24 billion per year, according to the Task Force on Community Preventive Services in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Healthful habits can be established one step at a time, said Janet Pollard, Extension associate for health. Because family is so important when it comes to influencing children’s activity levels, these efforts need to start at home, she added.
She recommends starting with small but significant goals, such as:
- Setting goals for increasing regular physical activity and monitoring personal progress.
- Building social support for these new behaviors, such as establishing a “buddy” system or group for exercising.
- Providing rewards and positive feedback for goals met.
- Establishing methods to maintain these changes.
- Guarding against relapses into old behaviors.
Healthful physical practices are important for the community too, Rice said, but establishing these practices takes time, coordination and cooperation.
“Community efforts are essential to create a social environment that promotes physical activity as well as healthy behaviors,” she said.
Some of these community efforts that can help spread the word are:
- Information such as signs near elevators or escalators that encourage use of the stairs, and television and radio spots touting the benefits of healthful physical activity.
- Behavior and social methods including school-based physical education classes and individual exercise as daily activity.
- Environmental and policy approaches including easier access to parks, walking trails and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks.
The greatest benefit throughout the community will be among those people who aren’t already physically active, Rice said.
“So if you’re already active, consider helping implement some of the listed interventions, getting involved in community action or grabbing a buddy or two and helping them get active with you,” she said. “The results could be a healthier America.”
For more information on this and other health issues, visit Extension’s Family and Consumer Sciences Web site at http://fcs.tamu.edu/ and click on the link to “Health.” Also look for Health Hints newsletter on the “Health” link.