More than 40% of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 struggle with basic physical functions likely due to obesity and sedentary lifestyle, according to a new report. A team of researchers from the University of Michigan and the RAND Corporation, after analysis of data collected by the National Health Survey, found that a significantly increasing amount of people at a younger age reported difficulty performing one or more of the following actions: walking for a quarter mile, standing for two hours, climbing 10 steps without resting, or stooping down.
Another disturbing statistic is the small but growing amount of middle-aged people (2%) needing help with personal care, such as getting out of bed, going to the bathroom, and shopping for groceries.
This parallels the experiences reported by many health care providers; a Chicago-based personal trainer, who preferred to remain anonymous, said he recently worked with a 56 year old woman who, because of her obesity, had difficulty walking on a treadmill for more than 5 minutes at a time. “Her son hired me because he was frightened at his mom’s failing health. She has young grandchildren who she can barely pick up or play with,” he said.
Although it was difficult at first, the trainer helped her, through consistent intervals of exercise and a better diet, to lose some weight and increase her strength and endurance. Eventually she was able to walk consistently for over 30 minutes.
The various health issues reported most often in the study included back and neck pain, arthritis, diabetes, and emotional issues. Experts agree that in most of these cases, obesity and lack of physical activity are the major factors causing these issues.
Extra weight increases stress on one’s joints. Losing as little as 10 pounds can greatly ease the strain on one’s knees and back. Physical activity also keeps fluid in the joints circulating, helps maintain range of motion around the joints, and benefits one’s emotional state as well.
No matter how old or how overweight one is, it’s important to know it’s never too late to begin a healthy lifestyle. The obese woman cited above, after working with the trainer a year, has now lost over 60 pounds and has seen a drastic improvement in her health and activity level.
“The problem, though, is that my staff is seeing more and more people like her. It sometimes feels like we are fighting an uphill battle.”
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