By Lisa Ziegel:
There should be no need to repeat the statistics that everyone must know by now: obesity is still on the rise, a huge percentage of the population is overweight and as a result diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and related complications are occurring in epidemic proportions. It may not be as well known that inactivity has overtaken smoking as the leading cause of death per year worldwide (5.3 million vs. 5 million deaths due to smoking, and yes, you read that right). In nearly every country levels of inactivity have reached frightening proportions and even still-developing countries, such as India, are expected to reach unprecedented levels by the year 2030. This year, an organization of 33 companies and agencies in the United States and worldwide decided to unite and make a concerted effort to turn these grim statistics around.
Designed to Move is the name of the “movement,” spearheaded by a diverse group including: from the United States, the American College of Sports Medicine, the National Football League and Nike; and organizations in Brazil, China and Germany as well as international coalitions. How do they intend to take on such a daunting task? In 2012 Nike Inc. produced a lengthy report that laid out an action plan. It can be found on the “Designed to Move” website and is downloadable in three versions (as the full 142-page report, a scaled-down executive summary, or as an infographic). In it, they presented the compelling results of many research studies, including the finding from a study commissioned by Nike leading to a projection that by 2020 the average American will expend 190 METS (a measure of energy expenditure or oxygen uptake compared to the resting value, also known as “Metabolic Equivalent for a Task”, e.g. walking at a pace of about 3 mph for 30 minutes would equal 3 METS vs. sitting at rest, which equals 1 MET) during the course of one week, while if a person were to spend 24 hours just sleeping, he or she would expend 151 METS.
The report’s “Framework for Action” statement first reminds us that humans are indeed “designed to move” by the nature of our body’s structure. Our skeletal frames are put into motion by muscles and supporting makeup, all of which will fail at their intended tasks if we fail to use them. The Framework compels us to understand what physical activity entails, designing it as “physical play”, sports, and/or purposeful physical activity. They want to make of point of re-defining the word “sport” in order to promote it as all-inclusive, rather than inferring that participation requires skill or has to be competitive. They also want to make sure that it is understood that physical activity comes in many forms for all ages, and enjoyment of activity just for the sake of being active should be the goal with the knowledge that health benefits will follow. They are concentrating their outreach efforts to people who can enact change; that is, government leaders, institutions, and individuals. Designed to Move (DTM) is putting out a call to all to think globally, but to act locally. This means that everyone can have an impact by helping others, beginning with working with children. Children need positive experiences as early as possible in participating in physical activity to set up a lifelong desire to remain active. This needs be nurtured by parents, but of course also schools, community recreation centers, daycare facilities, and even by toy and video game manufacturers who can create ways to make their products more interactive and less sedentary. Government leaders, corporations and institutions can create more opportunities for people to be active (creating bike paths, parks with public exercise courses, providing activity in the workplace and in public buildings) but individuals also need to urge this with their votes and their voices. Fitness professionals and even laypeople can help out by volunteering in communities and schools where funding is limited to provide services. Spreading the word by mouth, social media, and in the workplace are other ways one can help. Of course, setting an example that others will want to follow will both benefit you and others.
Worldwide, organizations are getting together and interacting with each other to help create a world where physical activity is a priority. The gains in health will benefit struggling economies by cutting the devastating costs of disease management and will result in a population that can contribute to its own prosperity. You will be hearing more about this initiative, but you can start doing your part now by visiting the DTM website, learning all you can about it and by finding a way to contribute. If we all do even a small part to help in our own corner of the world, the results will go global.
- Lee, I., Shiroma, E., Lobelo, P., Puska, P. Blair, S., and Katzmarzyk, P. for the Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group. (July 2012).
- Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. The Lancet. 380 (9838), pp. 219-229.
- Designed to Move (2013): A Physical Activity Action Agenda.