"Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General" states that millions of Americans suffer from life-threatening diseases that can be prevented or the symptoms improved if they would just increase their physical activity. These include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, adult-onset Type II diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis-related hip fracture, and obesity.
So why aren’t people more active? Research shows that most paid work and housework do not require much activity today. Leisure time is now the part of life where the most physical activity occurs. And, while paid fitness clubs and prescription exercise are valuable, individuals are generally actively involved for only a short time, often only three to six months.(5) The activities people tend to stay with – often for decades – are the ones they enjoy, such as walking, hiking, swimming, and other forms of recreation.(5)
Also, recreation services are often provided close to home, at no or low-cost, in readily available areas and facilities, with programs and instruction.(5)
And, because people are willing to participate in recreation activities over the long term, they gain many important health benefits. In fact, a variety of health-related organizations now recognize parks and recreation as health services and part of the health care system.
Regular participation in recreational activities has been shown to significantly benefit physical health. Cardiovascular heart disease, for instance, is a leading cause of death, and obesity, Type II diabetes and a lack of activity are the three primary causes. Brisk walking, swimming, or biking are excellent for elevating the heart rate and lowering obesity and diabetes, when done regularly.
Obesity is also related to chronic medical conditions such as hypertension, gall bladder disease, respiratory disease, and arthritis(1) One side benefit of outdoor recreation, from a health perspective, is a decreased likelihood of overeating, since there’s no refrigerator nearby and while outdoors, people are less likely to be sedentary.
Cancer is another leading cause of death. Active living has been shown to help prevent site-specific cancers, particularly in the colon, breast and lungs.(1)
Strong muscles, joints and bones can be maintained by physical activity that adds stress to the skeletal structure. Weight bearing activity is essential for normal skeletal development during childhood and adolescence. Regular exercise, especially muscle strengthening, may protect against the rapid decline of bone mass in postmenopausal women and protect the elderly from falls and fractures by increasing their strength and balance.(1)
A study by the Centers for Disease Control found that physically active individuals have lower annual direct medial costs than inactive people. People who exercised 20 minutes once a week were significantly less likely to call in sick than non-exercisers.(1)
Research shows that positive changes in the immune system occurs during moderate exercise. Even though the immune system returns to its pre-exercise condition, each exercise session appears to be additive in reducing the risk of infection over time.
Regular activity has many physical benefits, including longevity.
- every time sedentary people walk a mile, they add 2 minutes to their life.
- On average, every hour you spend being active increases your life expectancy by two hours.(1)
Recreation provides health benefits because it involves activities that people enjoy and are more likely to do over an extended period of time.
People are more likely to get exercise doing activities they find pleasurable – recreational activities. reduce the risk of developing or dying from some of the leading causes of illness and death in the U.S. Exercise and fitness can increase longevity and reduce many causes of mortality.
Eugene Recreation offers a wide variety of pleasurable activities you’ll want to do over and over again, such as water aerobics, biking, hiking, snowshoeing, regional excursions, Wii bowling, adult sports teams, lap swimming, dancing, and more. Check out the Recreation Guide at http://www.eugene-or.gov/reguide.
We want to know why you love recreation. Post your reason to one of Rec’s Facebook pages or handwrite your answer on one of our I Love Recreation handbills that are available at any Community Center or Pool. When you give us your reason, you’ll be entered in a drawing for a $50 Recreation gift card.
Recreation: building bodies and brains while having fun playing games.