Did you know the most common woman's dress size in the United States was a size eight in 1985 and is now a size 14? The average American woman's weight has increased 11 pounds (from 152 to 163) in the 10 years between 1990 and 2000, while height has remained the same. Men have also increased their weight by an average of 10 pounds from 180 to 190 pounds, while remaining essentially the same height, 5' 9". A more recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics shows further increase in weight in men, women and children.
Today, an estimated 100 million people in the U.S. (a third of our population) are obese. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, during the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. In 2008, only one state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20 percent. Six states had a prevalence of obesity equal to or greater than 30 percent. Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer and Type 2 diabetes. Our health care costs can be significantly lower if we reduce obesity and related diseases.
An obvious and simple solution to this critical problem is exercise. You don't need an expensive gym membership or specialized gear at home to exercise. All you have to do is get out and run. Running is natural for human beings. Researchers have found enough evidence that the human body has evolved over millions of years and is optimized for running. Our ancestors had to run for food and shelter and, perhaps more importantly, run from danger. Long before humans developed weapons, they hunted animals by running them to death. Even today, some tribes in the Kalahari Desert hunt animals such as deer and kudu by chasing them (see video). If humans are born to run, why are they not running?
Like any other skill, running needs practice. Every child intuitively knows how to run; however, somewhere along the line of growing up, we stopped running because of the changes in our lifestyle. We became lazy by watching too much TV and eating too much unhealthy food. We have now become a nation of obese people.
June 1 is National Running Day. Running doesn't cost anything. It is free. According to the Runningday website, "Running is an incredibly healthy, easy and accessible form of exercise." Whether it's five minutes, 15 minutes or 45 minutes, every little bit of time spent running makes a difference in the goal to live healthily and happily.
Running can also clear your mind, improve your focus and help with self discovery. But learn to run bio-mechanically so you can run without getting injured. To learn more about how to run injury free, pick up the "Chi Running" by Danny Dreyer. For inspiration, read "Born to Run by Christopher McDougall."
Ethiopian author, Abe Gubegna wrote in 1974, "Every day in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows that it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better be running." As the sun comes up today, you better be running for a healthy and happy life.