As the Senate debates how to bring health insurance to all Americans, let's focus on keeping people healthy in the first place. Science continues to report evidence that exercise is medicine, shown to help prevent chronic diseases, from diabetes and depression to osteoporosis and cancer.
Some in Congress (such as members of the Fitness Caucus) get the message: By encouraging healthy lifestyles, we can save many Americans the heartbreak of debilitating illness. Individuals enjoy better quality of lives; employers gain from greater productivity; we all benefit from reduced health-care costs.
Research has shown that exercise boosts the immune system, helping people shorten illness or avoid it altogether. Physicians who understand the power of prevention through healthy lifestyles may say, "Eat well, walk more and you may not have to call me in the morning." It's common sense, it's based on science and, increasingly, it's doctor's orders.
The action steps are clear, for Congress and for all of us. House and Senate members must support programs to help Americans follow healthy lifestyles. Each of us should eat a balanced diet, avoid tobacco and stay physically active. It's a simple prescription with a very big payoff.
JAMES PIVARNIK, Ph.D
American College of Sports Medicine