Friday, August 14, 2009

Healthy, safe living should be part of national discussion

By Steve Hammons

America, heal thyself.

As debates about personal, family, community and national health continue, there have been limited discussions regarding physical fitness, healthy living, safety education and personal responsibility.

For example, the challenge of overweight and obese adults, teens and children in the U.S. appears to be just one of many areas where low-cost or no-cost solutions are within reach. Heart disease, diabetes and a multitude of other health problems are linked to the overweight and obesity epidemic in the U.S.

And while many Americans have begun physical exercise activities, changed their eating habits and improved their physical fitness, millions still have not.

The overweight and obesity dilemma, though ultimately linked to personal behavior, also ties in with family and community attitudes and support systems.

Similar factors can be seen regarding tobacco smoking and unsafe behaviors that lead to different types of health problems and accident injuries.


Behavior, healthy or unhealthy, flows from within. Attitudes, motivation, personal history, self-image, personality and other elements can play large parts in health-related action or inaction.

Knowledge and information about healthy living are also key. Support systems of friends, family or other associates can also be important factors.

When it comes to physical fitness, many people find that participation at a gym, fitness club, community center, YMCA, Boys & Girls Club or other facility helps them get and stay motivated to exercise and continually improve their fitness levels.

Being around other people who are participating in health and fitness activities can be helpful. At today’s fitness centers, all ages of people can be seen on the treadmill or work-out machines. Young and middle-aged adults, grandparents and teens are often exercising together.

Some people say that this environment of common purpose – exercising and getting or staying in shape – can contribute to a unique sort of fellowship and mutual support. Finding a work-out buddy or buddies can also provide motivation and make exercising more fun. These buddies can be friends or family, co-workers or teammates.

If a formal facility is not available, there are many other options such as walking, jogging, hiking, bike riding or lifting weights with simple dumbbells (no, we’re not referring to your work-out buddies). Various other kinds of exercise and sports activities also can be fun and motivating.

In addition, some research indicates that moderate and vigorous exercise can help relieve stress, improve sleep, decrease anxieties and improve mood.

And then there is the personal satisfaction to be gained by setting a goal and doing your best to work toward that goal. When it comes to health and fitness, this can be particularly rewarding.


Many of the same factors that apply to physical exercise and fitness are also in play regarding tobacco use, unhealthy eating and unsafe behaviors that can contribute to ill-health or accident injuries.

Ceasing tobacco use can be accomplished, though it reportedly is difficult. Certain aids such as nicotine gum and patches are available to make success more likely.

Healthier eating is not rocket science. Less junk food, more fruits and vegetables. Lean meats including chicken and fish. Smaller portions. Some people suggest smaller meals, but more frequent meals every couple of hours or so. There are plenty of healthy eating ideas out there that seem to make sense.

When we look at accident injuries, sometimes we find that risky behaviors caused or contributed to the injury. On the other hand, sometimes the causes are situations and risks that are a natural part of life, such as playing sports or simply getting out of your shower and slipping on a wet floor.

However, by increasing safety education and awareness, many accidents can be prevented.

For example, falls are a primary cause of injuries to children, including serious injuries that require treatment at a hospital emergency department or trauma center. Although children will always take spills, many serious falls are probably preventable by common-sense adult supervision and educating children about the dangers of certain behaviors.

Families, schools, neighborhoods and communities have many options to teach kids about things like falls, bicycle safety, crossing busy streets and similar basic safety education. Local fire and police departments often provide personnel to visit schools and provide these kinds of orientations for kids.

The list goes on and on about the dozens of steps that can be taken to improve the health and safety of all Americans. Most of them only require common sense and a determination to do what is needed to get and stay healthy and safe.