Monday, April 25, 2005

Doctors: Beginning to Get a Clue?

I was stuck late at the office while a repairman was fixing our soda machine, when I came across this article:
Only 3 percent in US follow health advice - study

WASHINGTON, April 25 (Reuters) - Only 3 percent of Americans follow health advice to keep the weight off, exercise regularly, eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day and avoid smoking, according to a report issued on Monday.

Many studies show that people who eat healthily, exercise and do not smoke are far less likely to develop heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic and deadly conditions.

Yet Americans find it almost impossible to take these steps, Mathew Reeves of Michigan State University and colleagues found.

"I was surprised it was this low," Reeves said in a telephone interview.
Well, yeah. I would have thought it was fairly obvious. Just look around at how many fat, out of shape people there are waddling down the Frito Lay isle in the local grocery store.

It was at this point that the repair guy finished his work, and I got to finally go home, the article only partially read. So I was all set to post an entry here with a title something like "100% of Doctors Missing the Point Entirely" or something like that, but when I finally had a chance to read the remainder, I saw this (this is Reeves again):
"We need to do much more societally and in terms of government in making an environment where it is a lot easier to do this. Let's start thinking about how we construct our neighborhoods and our cities. Let's start thinking about the way we work and the long commutes and working 40 hours a week."

[And by "do this", Reeves is referring to exercising, eating right, not smoking and keeping body weight at a reasonable level.]
Bingo! The man gets it! Or, at least, he gets a crucial part of it.

Sometime last year, I recall reading an article in the local paper where it had been decided by some officious sounding medical body that the standard of 30 minutes of exercise at least five times a week wasn't good enough, and that it should be raised to 60 minutes. My very first reaction to that was, "Where the hell am I going to find the time for that?" Seriously--I have enough trouble coming up with a meager 30 minutes, given that, at my age, I can't just instantly start exercising. I have to warm up a bit first, right? So that 30 minutes really isn't 30 minutes--it's some indeterminate longer period. Possibly as much as 60 minutes, for people who have to travel to a fitness facility like a YMCA or something. And now they (whoever "they" are--I should probably see if I can Google this) want to add an additional 30 minutes a day? No way! Not possible. The day is only 24 hours long, and every single one of those hours is already spoken for. Losing sleep is clearly not acceptable, a fact any doctor would surely agree with. And, when you subtract out work, getting to and from work, and basic life necessities like cooking and cleaning, bathing, brushing your teeth, stuff like that, how much time is left? How many hours of "free time" does the typical person have every week day? Only a couple of hours, I'd guess, and probably a lot of us can't even say that. And I need to emphasize here that this is the time that should matter the most! Unless you are one of those lucky few who truly find self-actualization in your chosen career, the free time on those short little weeknights and measely two-day weekends are what life is all about.

So when I read Reeve's comment about the 40 hour work week possibly being a threat to people's health (because that is one of the things his comments suggest, although he doesn't say so explicitly), I have to admit to being quite thrilled. I sincerly hope this guy doesn't get swept under the rug somewhere--daring to suggest that maybe we should all be spending less time at work is a pretty radical idea in a country like the U.S.


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