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INITIAL THOUGHTS:

January 2013
A Healthier New Year ...

The research is overwhelming ... studies and data piling up ... findings indisputable — we are a nation that is growing more and more sedentary, and the consequences could be disastrous if we don.t begin to make some healthy strides in the right direction.

The good news is we have identified the enemy: inactivity.

The World Health Organization finds that inactivity is one of the leading health problems of the 21st century, and is the second-leading risk factor for non-communicable disease and the fourth-leading risk factor for global mortality.

According to the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, one out of every three children is now overweight or obese, and nearly $150 billion per year is being spent to treat obesity-related medical conditions. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that less than 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools and 2 percent of high schools provide opportunities for daily physical education for all students in all grades.

As these overweight and obese children grow up to be overweight and obese adults, they present an even heavier burden on our already bulging healthcare system.

A recent report by the George Washington University (GWU) School of Public Health and Health Services. Department of Health Policy calculates the annual individual costs of obesity to Americans in the thousands of dollars, and rising. The report, “A Heavy Burden: The Individual Costs of Being Overweight and Obese in the United States,” used a series of measures including indirect costs, lost productivity and direct costs, such as obesity-related medical expenditures, to estimate the price tag of obesity at the individual level.

And with news of the Army looking to, literally, trim the fat — giving soldiers the boot who fail to meet weight and physical fitness requirements — the issue is relevant from a defense standpoint as well.

A report, “Too Fat to Fight,” recently published by a group of more than 100 retired military leaders, points out that childhood obesity is now “a threat to national security.”

“A healthy and fit force is essential to national security,” notes Cmdr. Leslie Hull- Ryde, USN, Department of Defense (DoD) spokesperson, Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). “Today, more than a third of adult Americans are obese and a fourth of potential new recruits are unqualified due to their weight.”

Although these facts and statistics are sobering, within DoD and outside the gate, programs, initiatives and campaigns are underway, and still being developed, to combat inactivity and obesity, providing a glimmer of hope that we can stem the tide, and turn this thing around before it's too late.

The Let's Move! initiative, which is dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation, and the Fit for a Healthier Generation campaign, which features pre-recorded, 3- to 5-minute physical activity breaks aimed at getting kids up, moving and having fun throughout the day, are two great weapons in the war on inactivity.

And the new OSD-led effort to develop a service-wide Family Fitness initiative — one that will provide standardized programs, activities, support and resources for active-duty spouses and children — is very promising. Fitness, child and youth, and health and wellness experts from each service have been working in partnership with OSD during the past year to research best practices, develop strategies and formulate a plan, with the hope that a comprehensive, organized and sustained effort, embraced by the entire military community, will make a difference.

As we enter a new year filled with promise and hope, we at Government Recreation & Fitness are here to do our part, to help bring a change for the better by supporting and shining a light on these efforts, and by encouraging our readers to do their part in this war on inactivity in America.