Let me start by saying that I am a member of the Left side of the aisle. When I turned 18, I went to my grandmother for advice on which party to register under. She paused and looked at me with a very thoughtful look and said, “You are going to go home tonight and think very carefully about what matters to you, and then tomorrow morning you are going to register yourself as a democrat.” That was it, and it has been that way ever since. I do have beliefs that lean Right, but for the most part I have been, and still am, a member of the Left.
That said, this whole Health Care Reform debate is driving me nuts. Not simply because of the knee jerk reactions of the right (which inevitably lead to equally strong knee jerk reactions from the left), but because it doesn’t have to be this way. And, no, I don’t mean that politics don’t have to be nasty and mean (although that is true too). The way I see it, if we managed to get ourselves healthy as a nation, we wouldn’t have to pay so much into the system and this whole debate would be rendered somewhat moot. We are a country that has grown somewhat fat and for lack of a better word, lazy.
The MTV generation and those that followed have come to expect immediate gratification. That means if “being in great shape” doesn’t come after one hard workout and one healthful meal, they give it up and go back to the high fructose corn syrup and processed meats. The statistics are out there. Yes, the actual numbers vary from study to study, but there’s no arguing that as a people, we have gained weight (not just physically either, but that’s a topic for another post). Use the eyeball test.
Who’s to blame?
Restaurants serve over-sized portions and because of that, I believe we have started to do the same at home. The Cheesecake Factory’s of the world are partially to blame, but so are we. If we didn’t eat it all up, they wouldn’t serve it to us. How about the food industry itself, with its low-fat this and no-fat that? Diet soda is not the answer. In fact, it has been shown to be part of the problem. We’ve also seen a de-emphasis on physical education in this country over the last 30 years or so. I seem to remember as a kid participating in PE more than just twice a week. But by the time I got to college, the only physical activity I was participating was either playing beer pong in the fraternity basement (the original beer pong, not that watered down paddle-less crap the kids are playing today) or in the back of the bus on the way to a sorority formal. I also remember seeing the news clips of Japanese company men starting their day, every day, with calisthenics. Why aren’t we doing the same here? Post-college I worked in a law firm where we were required to arrive early, leave late and there was no concern for our physical well-being. I understand that getting to the business of the day is important, but imagine what a company could save on health care and sick day costs if their workforce was required to exercise on a daily basis. The national mentality needs to change.
I hear the Right complain that they’re paying for the medical procedures of their deadbeat neighbors. I hear the Left cry about the poor, unfortunate folks without health benefits. I’ll admit here that I lean left on this one. I believe that no one should be denied medical attention if they need it, whether they can afford it or not, but I also believe that because of the shape we are in, we are incurring unnecessary costs that get spread to the community at large.
Bottom line is that whether you are on the Left or the Right or drinking Tea, this health care issue can be solved for most of us with two things – your left foot and your right foot.
If you love this country, be a patriot and start running. Make the insurance companies lower their premiums because we are all healthy and don’t need them as much. Get your neighbor to start walking. If you’re still sitting on the couch, munching on that bag of processed foodstuff, ask yourself if you want your son or daughter to NOT have you there at their wedding? or at the birth of their child? or if you’d like to see your child see their child’s wedding?
You set the example for them whether you like it or not.
Like it. Embrace it. Show them how it’s done. If you don’t have kids, do it for your friends, siblings, partner or parents.
It’s even more fun when you do it together. If you don’t know how, don’t be afraid to ask a runner to run with you. 9 times out of 10, they will gladly, no, enthusiastically go at whatever pace you can for as long as you want to go. That is the awesomeness of runners (most of us, anyway…and yes, I did say awesomeness). We don’t care what level you’re at, just as long as you want to do it. My natural pace seems to fall in the 7:45 – 8:30/mile range for runs up to about 18 miles, but I will gladly, GLADLY run at a 16:00 – 20:00/mile pace for as long as it takes if it means any of you want to come along. And believe me, I don’t care if it’s 1 mile, 10 miles or anything in between. We runners just want to spread the word.
Now I am not so naive as to think that getting everybody running in 2010 will solve all of our problems. Bureaucracy is a slow-moving ship. However, the long-term effects of a healthy population can only help to alleviate the burdensome costs of health care. If we don’t need to treat the various diseases associated with obesity, alcoholism and smoking, then we don’t need to be paying for them either.
You want reform? How about we truly tackle health care and reform our thinking as a nation – exercise is something everybody can do, no, should do. Businesses should encourage their employees to get fit by providing an hour a day dedicated solely to exercise. Schools should go back to the days when we let our kids run and play and run some more. I am a self-proclaimed nerd and a firm believer in book education, but what’s the point of all that learning if we drop dead at 50 because our bodies give out?
Believe me, we can lick this Health Care issue simply by getting healthy. Don’t we (and our wallets) deserve that?