Move it or lose it - By Dr. Jane E. Aubin - Scientific Director, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Institute of 6 Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis

    OTTAWA, July 9 /CNW Telbec/ - Beijing will soon be host to thousands of
athletes from around the world trying to live up to the Olympic Games' motto:
"Faster, higher, stronger."
    And with millions of Canadians avidly following all the action, it's
likely a good number will no doubt be inspired to become more active
    For Olympians, just to put themselves in contention for a medal means
making training a full-time job. But for a lot less effort, the average
Canadian can give themselves much better odds of winning a far more valuable
prize, namely staying alive.
    While that may sound far-fetched, close to two million people around the
world die each year from doing, well, nothing.
    Being inactive also plays into the hands of many common illnesses.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a lack of exercise increases
the risk of many common non-communicable diseases. These diseases were
responsible for the deaths of more than 35 million people in 2005,
representing 60 per cent of all deaths worldwide.
    In fact, the consequences of something that at first glance might seem
innocuous are so severe that the WHO is targeting inactivity through the
development of global and national strategies on diet, physical activity, and
    It's an especially important message for Canadians because we're going in
the opposite - and unhealthy - direction. A recent Statistics Canada report
found that sport participation in Canada declined from 45 per cent in 1992 to
28 per cent in 2005. This trend is alarmingly apparent in Canada's
skyrocketing obesity rates. In 1978-1979, Statistics Canada reported that
14 per cent of Canadians were obese, but by 2005, that figure had jumped to
23 per cent.
    The more research that is carried out, the more it becomes clear that
being active is a critical component of all aspects of health. The WHO says
that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise, 5 days a week, improves not only
your musculoskeletal health, but greatly reduces your chances of heart
disease, stroke, type II diabetes, colon cancer, and breast cancer.
    But there are still many questions to answer. While we know that exercise
is important, there are significant gaps in our understanding of the
relationships between physical activity, mobility, and health at every level.
What is it that helps exercise prevent and even reverse some diseases such as
osteoporosis and arthritis? What kind of technologies do we need to help
physically challenged people reap the benefits of exercise?
    As researchers work to solve these pressing questions, one simple fact
remains: movement is good. Consider the work of Dr. Heather McKay, a
researcher supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
Dr. McKay discovered that even small changes in a child's activity level can
significantly strengthen bones and help increase bone mass. She found that
something as simple as bouncing when the school bell rings - five jumps, three
times a day, and then gradually increasing to ten jumps, three times a day
over 16 months - resulted in a marked increase in bone mass. Not only is this
good for children today as they grow, it will also help prevent osteoporosis
when they're older.
    Just as importantly, a lot of research is being done on just how best to
convince Canadians to choose to exercise regularly. Does a conservative
low-level campaign make sense, or should the approach be as aggressive as some
anti-smoking campaigns? Calling inactivity a killer may seem overly dramatic,
but so did early warnings about the health risks of cigarettes, eating fatty
foods, and driving without a seatbelt.
    Winning medals in Beijing will show that Canada has its share of
world-class athletes. But tackling lethargy will mean more of us are around to
enjoy the next Olympic games, not to mention the rest of life.

For further information:

For further information: David Coulombe, CIHR Media Specialist, (613)
941-4563, (Mobile): (613) 808-7526,

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