Time to Step UP

To the Journal editor:

Nearly a quarter of Michiganders are not physically active during their leisure time. This is very concerning as low levels of physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle increase the risk for many health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, obesity and depression as well as pre-mature death. For rural areas like the Upper Peninsula, where physical activity levels are often lower than those for urban areas, this is an even greater concern.

Last year the “Promoting Physical Activity for Americans Act” (S.397) was introduced to the U.S Senate. This bill would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to continue issuing physical-activity guidelines at least every 10 years based on the most current scientific and medical knowledge. As a professor who studies physical activity and its impact on health, society, and quality of life, I cannot underscore enough the critical need for our elected officials to support this bill, and for all of us to do our part by being physically active.

Engaging in regular physical activity can help to prevent and treat many chronic health conditions, combat infection (such as from COVID-19), and improve mental health and well-being. Increasing your physical activity and fitness level, by even modest amounts, can translate to savings of an average of $1,600 in annual healthcare costs. Simply put, physical activity is a “form of medicine” that is effective, safe, accessible, and affordable.

While physical activity has numerous health benefits, only 1 out of 5 adults currently meet the recommended guidelines of engaging in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and performing two days of muscle strengthening activities each week. A nation that continues to be physically inactive will face grave consequences. That is, our healthcare costs will be even more astronomical than they are now, we may not have enough active young adults to serve in the military, and we will be more vulnerable and less resilient to other threats including pandemics and natural disasters. We need Senator Peters and Senator Stabenow to support S.397 so that physical activity becomes a national priority and a vital sign of health.

One of the best things you can do for your health (and the health of our community) is to work towards achieving the recommended weekly amounts of physical activity. At first 150 minutes may seem like a lot. It is a reachable goal though as it translates to just over 20 minutes a day. Any activity that facilitates movement, makes your heart beat faster, and increases your breathing will work. So yes, even things like walking your dog, doing yardwork, and playing with your kids or grandkids all count. Ultimately, find activities that are enjoyable to you (e.g., walking, swimming, yoga, dancing, lifting weights) and easily fit into your daily routine. Any amount of activity is better than no activity for improving your health. If you are already active, then encourage less active family members and friends to join you on a short walk.

With Spring in the air, now is the time to get outside and enjoy the warmer weather, increased daylight, and everything the Upper Peninsula has to offer like its trails, waterfalls, and beaches. Let’s all do our part to “Step UP and Move More” as the health of our region, state, and nation depends on it.



EDITOR’S NOTE: Steven Elmer is an associate orofessor in the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology at Michigan Tech University.


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