Half of all adult Americans are expected to be obese by 2030, and already more than 40 million adults do not meet appropriate physical activity guidelines. Healthcare providers are rethinking their approach.
The approach of healthcare providers to obesity is slowly changing and hopefully the change will address the implications of obesity on the health, care and cost of the US Health System. The first change is a realization that fitness is more important than fatness. The second is a more routine monitor of fitness to the point of fitness becoming part of a patients routine “vital signs”. Monitoring and measuring are essential to improvement and the electronic medical record is a tool that can be used to accomplish both.
Recent studies have shown that fitness and fatness are not mutually exclusive. A recent study showed that people can be obese but metabolically healthy and have no greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer. The study also shows that those who are obese but are also metabolically healthy have a higher level of fitness than those who are not metabolically healthy. The research highlights the important role of physical fitness as a health marker.
The shift that’s slowly occurring in healthcare is an emphasis on physical activity. We have long asked about lifestyle choices related to smoking and drinking but we’re slowly beginning to realize that physical activity needs to be measured as well.
America has an obesity problem but we tend to pay attention only to what’s visible rather than what’s evident. Reducing fatness isn’t the key to better health and lower healthcare costs. Elevating the nation’s physical fitness is the key because increasing physical activity and improved cardiovascular fitness are associated with signficant reductions in mortality, even in the absence of weight loss.
Physical activity is a vital sign because when addressed and increased it leads to better health, better care and lower cost.