Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sedentary Living and Global Warming

I just got a laugh from this article about a new, serious disease that is even recognized by the World Health Organization:

Get Moving!

(by Carol Krucoff)

Professor Frank Booth, Ph.D, was out for his daily run one spring morning in 2000, pondering one of the toughest problems facing public health officials these days: how to get the nearly 70 percent of Americans who don't regularly exercise to start moving.

"Everyone knows exercise is good for them, but many don't realize it's a matter of life and death," says Dr. Booth, who teaches biomedical science at the University of Missouri-Columbia. "My father was in advertising, so I know how important a short, catchy name is to grab people's attention and change the way they think and behave. Running always helps my creativity, and the name Sedentary Death Syndrome just popped into my head."

Sedentary Death Syndrome (SeDS) may be a little too scientific to be catchy. But it needs to catch on. Because what it means, says Dr. Booth, is that "inactivity kills."

Dead Man Sitting
In fact, sitting kills more than 300,000 Americans annually. If it were a real disease, that would make SeDS the third leading cause of death in the United States, right after heart disease and cancer. But SeDS is more than one disease. Being sedentary is linked to a wide range of debilitating ailments -- from diabetes and depression to osteoporosis, certain cancers, and even sexual dysfunction. It affects nearly three out of four adults and a growing number of children and is projected to cost the United States $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

Though it's not yet a household word, the SeDS concept has caught on with a growing number of exercise scientists. Dr. Booth used his own money to start "Researchers against Inactivity-Related Disorders," or RID, an organization advocating governmental support for research into the disorders associated with sedentary living. A founding group of 40 RID members unveiled the concept of SeDS on Capitol Hill in 2001. Today, the group has more than 400 members in 19 countries.

(Just sitting around is apparently a worldwide phenomenon. Last year, the World Health Organization announced that about 2 million deaths annually worldwide are attributed to sedentary lifestyles and chose physical activity as the theme for World Health Day.)

Uh, yeah, I think the most revealing phrase in the entire article is "RID, an organization advocating governmental support for research into the disorders associated with sedentary living." We all know what "advocating governmental support for research" means: we want money, money, money! Oh, boy, someone has discovered a new source of pork-spending. They've created a new lobbying group disguised as doctors and researchers concerned for the health of all the people sitting on their asses (writing blogs and reading blogs and stuff, ;-) ). But the real truth of it is that this is just like the global warming scare that some people have created and perpetuated for their own job security and wealth. This new "SeDS" group is taking a page right out of the global warming playbook and working to create a huge public health scare.

I mean, this could be a scary statement for some people: "sitting kills more than 300,000 Americans annually." Wow! Just from sitting. ;-) If this isn't some kind of alarmist scare tactic like Gore saying that we have about ten years until the Earth is uninhabitable unless we all immediately go back to living like in the Dark Ages (well, except for him and all the other "important" people, just like when the Communist leaders lived in luxury while the "people" lived in poverty). And then get this, "[sedentary living] is projected to cost the United States $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years." Trillion. They really have set their sights pretty high, haven't they? These are some high maintenance "researchers" who must have some big mortgage payments to think about. ;-)

Unfortunately, there is some grain of truth to this "SeDS" in that our lifestyles have changed and some people apparently aren't adapting too well to those changes. But this grain of truth gets turned into a mountain just like the way a warm winter gets turned into climate change. Is this really something that can be fixed? I'm kind of thinking that on the larger societal scale, no, it's not something that can be eliminated like small pox, unless someone invents a perfect health pill and/or instates the Health Police. (actually, the Health Police are already trying that with the no smoking laws and now the no transfat laws some cities are passing)

The Health Police were too late for this fella.
Photo found on this hilarious site: Pushin Daisies: a mortuary novelty shop, though it looks like this particular item is no longer available, oddly enough.

Besides, I really question some of their "facts" about what really makes people unhealthy and kills them. I keep hearing about all these famous athletes getting cancer and bad arthritis and all the same things that regular people get. Yeah, all that healthy eating and exercise didn't keep them from getting sick, did it?

Just look at the commercials on TV. There's another key to this story: poor health is big business. We are constantly being told that we are depressed, full of mucus, impotent, too fat, allergic to everything, sleepless, asthmatic, hypertensive, full of cholestrol, and have acid reflux, ADHD and enlarged prostates (men) and leaky bladders (women). But all we have to do to get better is take these expensive pills. Now seriously, are we supposed to believe that this "RID" group really wants to kill their cash cow? I see right through their ruse.

Another big money maker for doctors is colon cancer screening.* I remember the day when it was only the unethical and seedy doctors who advertised their services (but never on tv because tv ads are expensive), but now all the big practices have their pseudo public service ads telling us we all must go pay them (or if you're lucky your insurance will pay them) to stick a camera up our butts or we will die of colon cancer. Scare tactics, again.

And there is a part of me that asks why we should be trying to keep all these people alive longer anyway, especially if the world is becoming overpopulated with couch/computer potatoes who drive their gas-guzzling SUVs to the Dunkin Donuts for a 60 pack of donut holes and a dozen jelly-filled. ;-) Well, of course, the answer is that we must do as much as possible to keep filling up the doctors' and researchers' and lawyers' pockets.

I have to wonder if this isn't a matter that will take care of itself. Just like the climate.

*Hold onto your stones. There's no need to throw them. I know the seriousness of colon cancer and that screening can save lives. Thank you.


Bee said...

sitting kills more than 300,000 Americans annually." Wow! Just from sitting. ;-)

it would probably be even more fatal if they stand or lie down, thrombosis and all.

"On the plus side, death is one of the few things that can be done just as easily lying down." ~Woody Allen

dhammett said...

It seems to me that humans have been looking for ways to reduce the amount of work we do forever. We're always looking for labor-saving devices. I mean, that's a major part of what the Industrial Revolution was about. If you look at books, TV shows and movies about the future, man has machine doing more and more.

But when we get leisure time, what do we do with it? The industrious among us spend time at health clubs or in other healthy pursuits. I have an outdoor hobby that I take part in so frequently that my youngest daughter tells me I'm obsessed. But I'm not beyond parking myself in front of a TV and watching for hours, whether it's DVDs, sports, or other cable/satellite shows that fit my interest niche. Especially when the weather makes being outside so unwelcome.

I don't think there's any doubt that a sedentary life is not good for us. But maybe that's why there are so many drug commercials on TV nowadays...they've found their perfect demographic.

Oh, and with all due respect to Woody Allen, I can think of at least one other pursuit that can be done laying down that's significantly more fun than death. ;-)

Rae Ann said...

Bee, good point!

dh, you're right about humans always seeking to make work easier. I was just thinking about that last night while cooking supper. I imagined what a woman from 2 or 3 hundred years ago would think if she saw how easy it was to open a box with all these prepackaged ingredients (Hamburger Helper, lol). It really is kind of "futuristic" if you think about it. Just add water and milk and meat that I didn't even have to slaughter. ;-) (We also had fresh broccoli, so it wasn't all processed stuff.) We certainly take for granted the ease of our lives.

By the way, using your same argument, sitting can be fun and active too. ;-)

tom trevor said...

The vast majority of people killed in car accidents are sitting. So are most people in plane crashes. So the numbers are even larger. In fact it might be that sitting causes car accidents. The same way CO2 cause warming even if the warming happens 800 years before the rise in CO2.