When you’re walking down a busy street, take a look around.
Chances are, of every three people you see, at least one of them is considered medically “obese.’’
It’s a sad number but a very real one.
Recent studies show that 38 percent of Americans are now considered obese – that is, as an extremely overweight person, they are a health risk to themselves for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and a variety of other maladies.
Even sadder, it doesn’t seem like we’re doing all that much about it.
That’s why people such as health and physical fitness expert Jim Worthington are so concerned.
Recently named to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition, Worthington is hoping to bring more awareness to our “weighty’’ problem.
As president of Newtown Athletic Club, which has a membership enrollment of some 12,000, Worthington has made a 40-year career of keeping many people in shape.
But there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Exercise, he believes, is the number one way to improve the situation.
Activities such as running are great. Anything to increase cardiovascular performance, the very core engine of a healthy lifestyle.
In addition to the presidential appointment, Worthington also recently was named chairman of the IHRSA (International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association) board of directors, which has similar good intentions to the President’s Council.
“Our mission is to cure the global obesity crisis through exercise,’’ Worthington says. “That’s our big-picture thing.’’
Worthington is working with the U.S. Congress to get a bill called PHIT (“Personal Health Investment Today’’ Act) passed and into law, which would speed the process of investing money in our nation’s health future.
On the President’s Council, Worthington will be serving with other newly appointed individuals including Patriots coach Bill Belichick, former NFL running back Herschel Walker and Yankees legendary relief pitcher Mariano Rivera.
“This is a 40-year culmination of my life’s work,’’ Worthington says. “Trying to help with healthy lifestyles, making a difference in people’s lives.’’
He’s in a position now where he can have an impact at the national level.
“This is like the crowning opportunity for me to advance that goal, which is to cure the obesity crisis,’’ he says.
“Getting people moving is the key to solving the health care crisis we have in the country. For every dollar spent up front on preventative, there’s a four-dollar savings on the back end.’’
He’s talking about you, me and the second, third and fourth guy walking down the aforementioned street.
When the President’s Council first started back in 1965, kids in school were supposed to take part in fitness tests – being able to do a certain number of sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, rope-climbing, jumping jacks, sprint runs during gym class.
But some, maybe a lot of that, has gone away.
“The schools have cut back because of the tightness of money,’’ Worthington explains. “There have been cutbacks in phys.-ed. requirements, the testing.
“Here’s a statistic: Six years ago, 44 percent of kids took part in organized sports. Today, 36 percent. And another stat: In the 17-24 age group – if we had to enact a military draft again, 70 percent of that age (bracket) could not pass the fitness requirement.’’
In Washington, Worthington is working with secretary Alex Azar of the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a national strategy to expand participation in youth sports, encourage regular physical activity, and promote good nutrition for Americans of all ages.
Now, more than ever, we need to reverse the trend toward sedentary lifestyles.
Worthington points out that if the number of children participating in organized sports is down eight percent in six years, imagine the percentage drop in the children who don’t play sports and aren’t active in exercise at all.
These are the ones which might require the most attention.
“With hand-held devices and computers, they’re distracted,’’ Worthington contends.
What are the answers?
“First, sports are great but I think the focus is way too much on them, because 80 percent of the kids aren’t going to be athletes,’’ he says. “You have to ingrain in everyone to get out and move, be active. That starts with the little kids.
“And stop being so competitive. Like: ‘You (son or daughter) are going to be the next college scholarship winner. Focus on just general health. Just go out for a walk, ride a bike, teach them good nutrition.’’
The other thing, he says, is to lead by example. Parents are role models. Good habits start in the home and they start early.
“It’s constant education,’’ he maintains. “We (adults) might be the first generation where our kids will be in worse shape than we are.’’
A sobering thought. And one which should not be forgotten.
Peace Valley Duathlon, 8 a.m., Doylestown. Contact www.scroogieevents.com
Friday, May 18
UnWINEd 5K, Doylestown. Contact www.scroogieevents.com
Sunday, May 20
20th annual Kiwanis-Sesame Place Classic 5K, 7 a.m., one-mile run, kids’ sprint, Middletown Township. Contact www.sesameplaceclassic5k.com