Healthier people create a healthier economy
Can poor health and lack of exercise make the recession worse? Absolutely! That is, according to a new report from the Trust forAmerica’s Health, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that is dedicated to saving lives by promoting community health and disease prevention. The report digs deep to investigate and explain how the health of a population is tied to that population’s economic productivity. It also examines how health affects the ability of states, cities and towns to attract and retain employees and employers, and how workplace and community wellness programs help improve productivity and reduce health spending.
The report details specific case studies and interviews with business executives, elected officials and public health leaders in a variety of different U.S. states, including Minnesota, Texas, Tennessee, Indiana, California and Mississippi. In these states, over half the inhabitants live with one or more chronic disease, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer, which are oftentimes preventable. The report presents data that exemplify how chronic health conditions affect worker productivity and increase healthcare costs. For instance, obesity alone costTexas businesses an extra $9.5 billion in 2009, including more than $4 billion for health care, $5 billion for lost productivity and absenteeism and $321 million for disability. However, they go even further to make the case that in order to attract new business, a city must be prosperous and healthy. This is the first major report to establish a direct connection between improving health and improving the economy.
Trust forAmerica’s Health: Healthier Americans for a Healthier Economy, November 2011.
Exercise improves sleep quality
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 50 to 70 million American adults experience chronic sleep loss or some type of sleep disorder. Although the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, one third of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep per night. Not getting enough sleep can lead to impaired cognitive ability, decreased motor function, emotional distress and accidents. However, results from a new study conducted at Oregon State University show that exercise significantly helps people sleep longer and more soundly.
The study included a representative sample of over 2,600 men and women (ages 18-85) who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in 2005 and 2006. Participants underwent an examination where their BMI was measured and they answered questions about their general health and sleep and exercise habits. They also wore an accelerometer for seven days to measure activity. The study authors found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week, which is the amount recommended by national guidelines, resulted in a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality. Results showed that people achieving recommended amounts of physical activity were able to fall asleep more quickly, sleep through the night, and felt less sleepy during the day, as compared to those who did not exercise enough or at all.
Loprinzi and Cardinal. (2011). Association between objectively-measured physical activity and sleep, NHANES 2005–2006. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 4 (2), 65-69.
Exercise improves cognitive function in overweight children
Many studies have confirmed that exercise improves cognitive function in adults and can delay the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Studies also show that children who are more active get better grades in school, but the relationship between exercise and cognition is not well understood in children. A study recently published in the journal Health Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association, was conducted to test the hypothesis that exercise would improve executive function in children.
Researchers included 171 children (ages 7-11) who were sedentary and overweight, and divided them into three treatment groups: a light exercise program (20 minutes per day), a moderate exercise program (40 minutes per day) or a control group. They administered psychological evaluations and tests to assess cognitive skills and MRI scans to evaluate brain activity during different tasks. The study results showed that exercise has an effect on executive function and mathematics achievement. Those children who engaged in the most exercise performed better on certain cognitive tasks and showed increased activity in certain areas of the brain. This study helps us better understand how exercise affects brain activity in overweight children, and shows yet another benefit of exercise.
Davis, et al. (2011). Exercise improves executive function and achievement and alters brain activation in overweight children: A randomized, controlled trial. Health Psychology, 30(1), 91-98.
Weight loss and exercise can help prevent knee arthritis
Knee osteoarthritis, which was once mostly prevalent in persons over the age of 50, is being diagnosed in younger populations. Nearly 6.5 million Americans between the ages of 35 and 84 will receive a diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis in the next decade, according to new projections. Experts say that this trend is largely due to increasing obesity rates, because excess weight is directly linked to arthritis, particularly in the knees. A new study conducted by researchers atWakeForestUniversityfound that a program consisting of diet and exercise reduced pain and improved mobility by as much as 50 percent in people who suffer from arthritis in the knee.
A total of 399 overweight or obese men and women who had knee arthritis (average age of 66 years) were divided into three study groups. One group dieted, another group exercised and the third group participated in both the diet and the exercise programs for the duration of the study (18 months). The diet and exercise group lost the most weight, losing an average of 11.4 percent of their body weight and reported much less pain and discomfort than the other groups. They also were able to walk faster than members of the other group.
According to the authors, exercise is especially effective at relieving pain associated with arthritis and increasing mobility. Additionally, exercise (along with diet) is important in causing weight loss, which helps alleviate the strain on the knee joint and prevents the condition from worsening.
The Annual Meeting of the AmericanCollegeof Rheumatology, November 2011.
Efforts to prevent childhood obesity should be started as early as kindergarten
The most recent issue of the journal Pediatrics contains a sobering update on childhood obesity rates, which are increasing at a frightening pace. Researcher from theC.S.MottHospital at theUniversity ofMichigan analyzed data from over 6,000 white, black and Hispanic children who participated in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study.
The study researchers measured the participants’ height and weight periodically over nine years. Researchers used the BMI values from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention national growth charts to compare current trends with past generations’ growth rates. The study found that nearly 40 percent of kindergarteners had a BMI in the 75th percentile or above, which is a significant increase (only 25 percent of children were in the 75th percentile in the 1970s and 1980s). Furthermore, approximately 28 percent of kids from the study had a BMI in the 85th to 95th percentiles, compared with 10 percent of earlier generations, while 12 percent had a BMI above the 95th percentile, compared with only 5 percent of the children who were studies in the 1970s and 1980s.
The authors conclude that in order to effectively target the growing problem that is obesity, programs that encourage better eating habits and more physical activity must start as early as preschool, and parents should be more involved.
Datar, et al. (2011). Changes in body mass during elementary and middle school in a national cohort of kindergarteners. Pediatrics, epub.