Get healthy -- if not to save money, then for a better life
Most island residents ignore advice about nutrition and exercise, a state report says.
A new report by the state Department of Health has found that most people in Hawaii don't eat enough wholesome foods or get sufficient exercise and as a result spent collectively about $140 million in 2005 for hospital treatment.
On the other hand, adults who were physically active avoided costs of about $380 million for treatment of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
Healthy diets and workouts are clearly advantageous when presented as dollars and sense. Even more importantly, they both lead to a better quality of life, one not tied to visits to the doctor, a menu of drugs and constant tests and therapy.
The Hawaii Physical Activity and Nutrition Surveillance Report 2008, the most recent compilation of data, should help organizations and state agencies design programs to educate and encourage people to take steps to improve their health.
For parents and schools, the report's data underscore the need to motivate adolescents, showing that an overwhelming majority -- 77 percent of middle school and 81 percent of high school students -- ate fewer than the recommended five daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Similarly, children in those age groups -- about 30 percent -- didn't exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.
Health officials see remedies in having exercise programs at workplaces that many employers are finding reduce sick days and health insurance costs. Residential areas can be designed for walking, running and bicycling, instead of cars and driving.
Physical education classes and more nutritious cafeteria foods would go a long way toward getting teenagers in good shape not only for learning but to set healthy courses for their older years. Otherwise, Hawaii will continue to see an increasing rate of obesity among adults that has gone from 9.1 percent in 1990 to 20.6 percent in 2006.
When it comes to eating good foods, nearly 75 percent of mature people shun fruit and vegetable recommendations. About half could be correctly categorized as couch potatoes, the report says, even though the islands have temperate weather and a wealth of recreational choices.
Most people are aware of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. A lack of time is what they would claim holds them back -- time to prepare nutritious meals instead of a quick call for pizza delivery, time to get to the beach for a swim.
However, the few minutes to pack an apple for a midday snack to replace vending-machine chips or an after-dinner ramble through the neighborhood instead of a half-hour of a Seinfeld rerun could add up to a longer life span unrestrained by chronic illnesses.