Evolving Research


I love research. One of the highlights of my morning is going through my e-mail looking for the daily health and fitness reports and reading up on the latest research in the industry. I'm one of those nerds that constantly forwards the latest studies on topics of interest to my circle of friends and family. It's all about helping people to live a healthier and happier life. That's especially important this month as we celebrate National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.

However, one thing about research is that it is constantly changing. Recently, it seems the contradicting studies have popped up more frequently than normal. For example, last year the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that obesity and overweight killed 400,000 Americans per year almost catching up with smoking, which kills 435,000 Americans each year. However, the National Center for Health Statistics, which is a part of the CDC, recently released a report that stated that obesity caused 75 percent fewer deaths than originally reported — 112,000 deaths in 2000.

Either number is startling, but that hasn't stopped one consumer group from using the new figure for its own good. Recently, the Center for Consumer Freedom, a group backed by the U.S. food and restaurant industry, launched an ad campaign using these revised numbers to combat the bad publicity they've received about their industry's contributions to the obesity problem. The ads call the talk of an obesity epidemic a bunch of “hype.”

It doesn't matter whether the number is 112,000 or 400,000; the issue is that the number is growing, and we as fitness industry professionals must reach out to these people before the number grows even further. And it doesn't help our cause when dissension exists within the industry about what is healthy. A Reuters story quoted Tim Church of the Cooper Institute as saying that fitness is about behavior not weight. However, Dr. Bob Eckel with the American Heart Association disagreed. And so did a study from the University of Colorado at Boulder. That recent study found that being overweight is a risk factor even if the person can demonstrate that he or she is fit — disputing the idea that “it's okay to be fat if you're fit.”

To add to the confusion, one recent study found that being a little overweight is healthier than being at target weight, but another study in the New England Journal of Medicine said that obesity was lowering life spans by four to nine months.

The overweight public may become so frustrated by all these conflicting reports that they'll give up on the idea of ever being healthier, or they'll decide that exercise won't matter because science will save them from their unhealthy habits in the end — especially if they've read recent news articles in which health experts have said that better medicine is helping the obese live longer.

I wish I could forward the helpful health studies to the inboxes of every American each day and block out the studies that could cause them despair or disregard for their current health status. However, I can't, and neither can you, but you can reach out to your members, most of whom know that your level of health and fitness knowledge is more extensive than theirs. Because of that, they trust you and the information you give them. If you can weed out the hype and the bad studies, you can keep your members motivated and their confusion to a minimum.

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