San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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June 29th, 2009
Run with Moe: Entering the health business

Run with Moe: A column
By MOE JOHNSON
San Marcos Runners Club

Here’s a last-minute reminder for local and area runners that the Firecracker 5K race is this Thursday evening in San Marcos.

The race is a little different as it is on a Thursday and in the evening. It’s an excellent chance for most runners to take advantage of the time and date.

Put a check mark on Thursday, July 2, at 7:30 p.m. out at River Ridge Business Park for a 5K run that will be a great way to enjoy the holiday weekend.  Early registration can be found at the San Marcos Activity Center and day of race registration starts at 6:30 p.m. out at the race site.

This past week, a number of publications have focused on the benefits of fitness.

Time Magazine’s June 22 issue had an entire section on why medical doctors are beginning to stress the values of fitness instead of always dealing with people that have some form of illness or sickness. The July issue of the Harvard Health Letter also had a good article on the benefits of exercise, fitness and strength training.

By the accounts, 75 percent of our health care costs are attributable to chronic, preventable diseases. Of premature deaths in the United States, 40 percent are caused by lifestyle choices – smoking, poor eating and inactivity. Our system rewards pills and procedures and nurtures a clinical culture in which the goal is primarily to fix what goes wrong.

One doctor said, “We are in the sickness business. We need to get in the health business”.  Key words are “preventable” and “lifestyle choices.” These items, which are up to each person, can be very important steps for being healthy.

The federal government offers guidelines recommending that American adults get at least two and a half hours of “moderate intensity” aerobic exercise per week. Walking at a fast pace of three to four miles per hour (three is brisk; four can feel downright fast) is often held up as the ideal of moderate intensity.

The exercise bouts can be in 10 minute allotments for those who feel they don’t have time during the day to put an hour or so aside for exercise. Considering the multiple benefits of exercise – lowering the risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes, protection against some forms of cancer (notably colon cancer), deflection of depression, important assistance in weight control – could there be a more effective medicine?

One statement that came out this week said, “If exercise were a pill, it would be the most expensive drug in the world.” While this seems to be the solution for all too many people looking for that magic pill to change things and get healthy at any cost, the best thing about exercise is the exact opposite.

Walking or running or riding a bike or swimming in the river or lifting weights is inexpensive, there is no special training needed and a gradual progression takes place as individuals start out in poor shape with limited amounts of exercise and very quickly find that fitness lets them go farther and faster, and they feel better in a very short time.

Companies that have instituted fitness programs for their employees have started to see the benefits in a monetary sense. An example is Cleveland Clinic, which anticipated employee premiums in health care premiums of 4-8 percent each year up to 2010, when it anticipates no increase. The company lets employees join the program for free.

Companies are willing to pick up that tab when they estimate saving between $5,000 and $10,000 per patient per year in claims that would otherwise be filed for treatments such as dialysis, angioplasty or bypass. A side benefit is that the rate of absenteeism for sick days drops considerably, and there is a boost in productivity. Companies are finding out that paying for fitness programs is much less expensive than paying medical costs.

Is this a reason to run the Firecracker 5K this Thursday evening? One race may not be the answer to all of the problems, but it sure is a good starting point for a person. Whether you walk or run, it is a good chance to come out and see how many people are actually out there trying to make the prevention option to health a good choice.

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