Health reports find Americans are becoming more sedentary and more sick, so Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is introducing a bill designed to nudge couch potatoes into getting in better shape.
Harkin says his "Physical Activities Guidelines for Americans Act" directs federal health officials to prepare and promote new exercise guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence. He says more than half of all Americans don’t get enough daily exercise to maintain proper health.
"What I hope to accomplish is to set up a guideline like dietary guidelines that we have right now and the Food Pyramid, which give you an indication of what you should be eating and consuming on a daily basis. Well, this is going to tell you what you ought to be doing physically," Harkin explains. Harkin says the legislation would set national exercise guidelines for Americans of all ages and ability levels. He says it could be similar to the federal nutritional guidelines, which are updated every five years.
Harkin says his goals are simple: "Hopefully to get people to start thinking about being more physically active. That’s really the bottom line, both age-related, younger people, middle age, older people." Harkin says many people just don’t know how much exercise they should be getting, so the guidelines will promote a healthier lifestyle and improve fitness among all age groups. He calls it a "step towards combating the obesity epidemic and the onslaught of chronic disease that is causing our health care costs to skyrocket."
Harkin says research shows the importance of physical activity in preventing disease and lowering death rates, adding, some 250,000 premature deaths every year can be attributed to lifestyles that lack physical activity.