Exercise Against SeDS Rally

Statement from Margo G. Wootan, D.Sc. Center for Science in the Public Interest


For most, life in modern America means life in a society that discourages moving — and encourages eating. Neighborhoods are designed for driving not walking. Labor saving devices like dishwashers, drive-through windows, and garage door openers mean less physical activity. Physical education in schools is declining. Stairs are hard to find and unattractive, while elevators and escalators are conveniently located. And each year, the average American spends the equivalent of 57 days watching television.

With all the environmental factors that reduce physical activity, it takes more than willpower to be physically active. We also need programs, policies and environmental changes that reshape and improve the environment to make physical activity easier and more accessible.

One key component of a national strategy to promote physical activity is for Congress to provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with adequate resources. CDC’s Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity has a budget of just $16 million a year. In comparison, CDC has $100 million for programs to reduce the use of tobacco, which kills about the same number of Americans as inactivity and unhealthy eating.

The 175 state and national organizations in the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity — or NANA — have successfully lobbied to increase the budget of CDC's Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity 8-fold in just 2 years — from $2 million in FY1999 to $16 million in FY2001. NANA urges Congress to provide $50 million for FY2002. That level of funding would allow CDC to expand programming from the 12 states that are currently funded to 24 states, and expand extramural research, monitoring and surveillance, and national communications to promote physical activity.

Other promising policy options for promoting physical activity include 1) supporting daily physical education for every school-child, 2) promoting mass transit, walking, bicycling, and other forms of transportation that involve physical activity, and 3) strengthening infrastructure that facilitates physical activity, including parks, bike and walking paths, recreational facilities, and pools.

Despite the enormous number of premature deaths and disabilities, and high economic costs that result from physical inactivity, and the rising rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes in both adults and kids, the federal government’s response to inactivity is akin to crossing its fingers and hoping that Americans will get moving. It’s time that Congress made a real commitment to and investment in programs, policies, and environmental changes that help Americans to be more physically active.