The year 2020 will forever be remembered for the pandemic and the draconian measures taken by governments across the world. Yes there was a virus, yes people got sick, and yes people died. The fear was spewed all over every news channel 24/7. In may states across the United States businesses were shut down, but more specifically gyms were shut down. Some leaders encouraged going outside for physical activity. However in many northern states you're now contending with harsh cold and inclement weather. Even so, most of what you heard come from government agencies was wear a mask, and stay home with very little or no mention of physical activity. Here is where we missed the boat.
Despite the fact that data did not support shutting gyms down, there were other alternatives to simply shutting them down or merely suggesting going outside for physical activity. With the advent of technology and the amount of money being spent on the pandemic it is not unreasonable to determine we could have easily supported online personal training and small group fitness. We know that even in the elderly as little as 20 minutes of exercise three times per week improves immune function. If this message would have been spewed all over the news we could have really went into a direction of "health care" and not just simply "sick care".
If a real campaign about physical activity would have been launched we could have truly transformed a society where it is estimated upward of 70% of the population is overweight. Being overweight is not just important for chronic disease it is important in fighting viral infections such as COVID-19, and yet no mention of its benefits were mentioned. In fact it was so blatantly ignored that this was even acknowledged by the British Journal of Sports Medicine. This is not scientific theory, this is supported by a body of studies. There are more studies confirming the immune system boosting power of exercise than there is about mask wearing's effectiveness against an air borne disease.
If you simply look at the statistics (from the CDC) of who died of COVID-19, in 94% of the deaths, they had on average of 2.6 chronic conditions. That's 94%!!!! Of those chronic conditions most of them were preventable through exercise and nutrition. We were not a healthy society that got exposed to a deadly virus. We were an unhealthy society exposed to a largely non-lethal virus. The virus just exposed our weak areas. Is that overly simplistic? I don't think so, the data is pretty glaring. Certainly age played a large role, but most of our elderly have many chronic diseases because they did not take care of themselves in their youth. If our culture were different the death count would have been substantially lower, I have no doubt.
I often think about why exercise is so overlooked when it comes to treating disease. Is it because it requires effort? Is it because we believe we can not influence the public to do it? I don't think it is either of those. I think there is no obvious opportunity for additional money and power to be gained... so politicians don't care. We are in dire need of coaches and qualified fitness professionals to help the public, and to do that we need the support of the government. We need to incentivize fitness, and good nutrition... and this pandemic could have accomplished all of that. However the pandemic was politicized to what end I do not know... but what I am sure of is if we politicized exercise, and nutrition like the pandemic we as a society would be living longer, healthier, and happier lives than the generations that went before us, and I think that's a cause worth fighting for.
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