Gotta move!

We talk about it every day. Health is so precious. Yet, many of us pay little attention to it until our lives are disrupted: a heart attack, a stroke, a lung cancer in a smoker, kidney failure that requires dialysis in a diabetic patient. In short, many of us are confronted with serious health problems that are not only costly for our healthcare system, but also highly detrimental to the quality of life of the afflicted individuals and their families.

Did you know that the World Health Organization estimates that four behaviours (smoking, overconsumption of alcohol, poor diet, and sedentary habits) account for 63% of global deaths? Thus, at least in theory, we could cut our healthcare costs by 50% if our behaviours were compatible with human health, freeing up some funds for palliative care, education, and social programs, among other things. In this regard, international experts now recognize that our healthcare system, in its current form (which should rather be called a disease management system), is not the solution to the prevalent health problems such as the epidemic of abdominal obesity, type 2 diabetes (the form associated with lifestyle habits), and cardiorespiratory diseases. We need to reorganize primary care (family medicine) and develop a modern preventive medicine infrastructure where we measure and target lifestyle “vital signs” (which is as important as measuring and treating cholesterol or blood pressure) by including, for example, nutritionists, kinesiologists, and behaviour experts. We must also develop innovative solutions at the population level and provide citizens with a toolbox to help them improve the various dimensions of their health.

Move… to slow down the aging process!

If you are concerned about aging (we all are), you will be interested by the following. The first thing to know is that the effect of age on health is overstated. Although aging is unavoidable, premature aging, on the other hand, is! However, you have to challenge your body with regular physical activity and you have to move, move, and move! And I do not mean exercise. Indeed, while there is robust scientific data showing the deleterious effects of a sedentary lifestyle, there is also considerable evidence stating that just getting off the couch, reducing sedentary time, and doing something as simple as walking 30 minutes a day (for an adult) can significantly reduce the risk of developing chronic societal diseases. So, if you are among the one third of citizens who do not move daily, go out and walk! Even walking 15 minutes per day will be beneficial for someone who is sedentary! Nothing complicated!

We will come back to this topic on several occasions in this section, which aims at translating the science produced by academic experts worldwide to the lay public. However, before reading the next column, one thing to do: put on the sneakers, get out of the house, and just go for a walk. Your body will be grateful. An easy, first step to slow down the aging process!