For Immediate Release
Washington, DC; June 9, 1999 - With mounting evidence that Americans are more sedentary than ever before, Dr. C. Everett Koop - the former U.S. Surgeon General and founder of Shape Up America! - today called for a national mobilization to make fitness a national health priority.
At a Washington, DC, news conference attended by leading authorities on physical activity and healthy weight, Dr. Koop said that inactivity is reaching "crisis proportions" in the U.S., the result of a highly technological society that makes it increasingly convenient to remain sedentary and discourages physical activity in both obvious and subtle ways. It is now estimated that 60 percent of adult Americans are not physically active on a regular basis. Even more troubling, 25 percent of adults - one of four Americans - are not active at all. Dr. Koop founded Shape Up America! to address the growing epidemic of obesity and to encourage Americans to adopt healthier eating habits and a more active lifestyle.
"At a time when health care costs are skyrocketing, it is more important than ever to elevate fitness as a public health strategy," said Dr. Koop. "An intensified effort to motivate Americans, at every age, to be more physically active is essential to reducing premature death in this country by significantly lowering the risk of certain life-threatening conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. At the same time," Dr. Koop added, "regular participation in physical activity appears to reduce depression and anxiety, improve mood, and enhance the ability to perform daily tasks throughout life."
Reinforcing Dr. Koop's call to action are the recent findings from the fields of epidemiology, exercise physiology, medicine, and the behavioral sciences, confirming that fitness is a better predictor of health and longevity than almost any factor studied.
Specifically, data now show that:
Other significant findings have to do with the level of intensity of physical activity. While it was once thought that only vigorous exercise yielded a health benefit, increasing evidence now suggests that light to moderate activity - below the level recommended for cardiovascular fitness - can result in some measurable health improvements, including a reduced risk of heart disease. In addition, new research finds that intermittent physical activity increases caloric expenditure and is a viable option for those who cannot fit 30 minutes of sustained activity into their schedules.
Because of these compelling findings, Dr. Koop called on the public health community to increase the resources allocated to physical activity programs. Toward this end, Dr. Koop also announced a new information tool on the World Wide Web that, for the first time, translates the science behind physical fitness into an activity program customized for adults at all fitness levels. Developed by his anti-obesity initiative, Shape Up America!, the new tool - a Fitness Center - has been added to the Shape Up America! website at www.shapeup.org.
The Fitness Center works by taking the visitor through a series of assessments, using interactive technology to rate the person's activity and fitness levels while calculating how many calories the individual will burn with each type of physical activity. After the visitor enters specific information about his or her weight and customary activity level, the Fitness Center provides an evaluation of the person's flexibility, muscular strength, endurance and level of aerobic fitness - all important factors in designing a customized physical activity program.
Once the visitor's level of fitness has been determined, the Fitness Center allows the person to develop an activity program based around four areas of improvement: 1) going from completely sedentary to low-impact activity on a regular basis; 2) adopting a moderate activity program; 3) exercising vigorously to improve cardiovascular fitness; and 4) increasing muscle mass and strength through weight training. At the same time, the Fitness Center specifically addresses the barriers to fitness, such as lack of time, giving people the motivation to keep going when staying active becomes difficult.
"The Fitness Center is about setting goals and achieving them," said Barbara Moore, Ph.D., president of Shape Up America! "Our strategy was to use interactive technology to establish goals that are within your reach and then show you how to get there."
As visitors click on the Fitness Center's homepage, the will be offered a menu of information such as:
Originally launched in October 1996, the Shape Up America! website has received numerous awards for providing solution-oriented information to the general public about weight-related issues. www.shapeup.org now receives between two and three million hits per month.