Physical Activity and Healthcare, How Can We Make Physical Fitness Part of Medicine?

One month into 2020, how is your New Year’s resolution holding up? If you are like most people, your New Year’s resolution involved something along the lines of exercising more, cutting out bad habits, or simply making better lifestyle choices. But unfortunately, a study of over 30 million people showed that nearly 80 percent of resolutions fail to make it into February. Why?

When I was a personal trainer at Southern Illinois University, we consistently lost clients on the basis that they were simply not seeing results fast enough and that personal training was getting too expensive. Unfortunately, this is the national trend. The stressful process of exercising consistently is too expensive and scientists and healthcare providers are stuck with the outcomes of an increasingly more obese and physically inactive population.

According to data collected by the CDC published as the National Ambulatory Health Care Data, the average U.S. adult sees a primary care provider almost 3 times per year, but only 32% of Americans report receiving any kind of physical activity counseling during those visits. Fortunately, clinical tools such as the Physical Activity Vital Sign through Exercise is Medicine have begun to improve the efforts of healthcare providers in assessing and promoting regular physical activity.

The simple question that I have here is; Why have we not made physical activity part of healthcare? We understand the need, we have the tools (Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans), so why is exercise not part of basic healthcare? Your guess is as good as mine, but something needs to be changed. In an election year that has a focus on the future of healthcare, we need to address this major gap in our society.

A good friend of mine recently shared with me an amazing program that is starting to bridge this gap between healthcare and physical activity. It is called SilverSneakers. SilverSneakers is a group that works with local gyms and healthcare insurance companies to provide physical activity as part of their healthcare plan for members 65 and older. At no additional cost, eligible members can go to a local gym and train with certified instructors on proper lifestyle habits and exercise training techniques. The program provides fitness classes designed for seniors and access to healthy living products at a discounted price.

I love the concept of SilverSneakers. They give evidence that it is possible to make exercise part of our healthcare plans! But we can be doing so much more! With the way our current society is moving, we can take advantage of innovations such as wearable technology to implement plans such as this for all of America. If healthcare plans were to partner with local gyms and implement proper provider training to personal trainers, we could use the gym as a place that people receive physical activity and lifestyle healthcare. A place where you not only have access to lifestyle healthcare, but can be educated about proper lifestyle habits. A way to get credit for your insurance can be as simple as scanning your provided Fitbit, Garmin, or Apple Watch when you go into the gym.

Now the answer is never this simple, and those of you who know me best know I could go on for ages about my ideas and opinions on healthcare. But what I want this post to accomplish is to show that our ability to do something is within our reach. It is time we start making a move towards a healthier and more active America.

Do you have a New Year’s resolution that is still going strong? Do you have ideas about how we can improve healthcare in America? Share in the comments!

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