Forget Old Age. Why Does This Matter Now?
“Physical activity during youth may help reduce fracture risk in old age.” I believe his headline from a March 23 press release by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. I accept that Swedish researcher Bjorn Rosengren and his colleagues followed sound methodology in their current and retrospective studies of student athletes compared to non-athletes. And I follow the reasoning that more physical activity during childhood builds bone mass. More bone mass means a lower risk of fractures in old age.
Maybe the news will persuade legislators and school boards to keep funding for gym and sports strong in schools. Unfortunately, the news will probably convince few, if any, children and teens to turn off the computer or TV and head outside to play. Old age is too far in the future for them. Even their parents probably aren’t worrying about old age—either for themselves or their kids.
Health professionals who deal with tobacco education finally get this idea. Twenty-five years ago, the anti-smoking messages all focused on cancer, heart disease, and other long-term effects. Within the last decade, though, there’s been much more emphasis on the immediate consequences of smoking.
Robert Klesges at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital stressed this when I interviewed him a few years ago. “The average adolescent is more concerned about the quality of their breath than the quality of their blood pressure.” As for long-term consequences, many teens’ attitude was, “Who cares? I’ll be old or dead by then anyway.”
Bad breath and worse performance in sports are immediate bad consequences that most teens want to avoid. Just as importantly, a huge majority of teens prefer to date nonsmokers. So say 80 percent of tenth graders in the 2012 Monitoring the Future Study. More than half of all high school students in the study disliked even being near people who were smoking.
Other messages appeal to teens’ sense of independence. Tobacco companies need new customers to replace the 1,200 people who die every day from smoking-related diseases. Teens who don’t smoke don’t get trapped in a costly addiction that sucks dollars out of their wallets and into the coffers of big business.
Fortunately, teens seem to be listening. Combined data for 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in 2012 Monitoring the Future Study showed that less than 11 percent had smoked cigarettes with in the past month. Let’s hope that trend continues.
Let’s get more physical activity in our lives too. Maybe we’re not worrying about old age yet. But feeling good and looking good right now are great reasons for all of us to get moving.