CDC head touts value of exercise

by Allison Robbins | 10/24/97 5:00am

Dr. David Satcher, whose nomination for Surgeon General was approved by a Senate subcommittee Wednesday, preached the importance of physical activity to a large crowd in Cook Auditorium last night.

Satcher, the current director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, claimed that prevention and physical activity in general can save lives, pain and money.

"If we could get people who are sedentary to be active, we could save $4 billion a year," he said.

According to Satcher, one-third of all American adults are totally inactive, and almost two-thirds receive less than the recommended amount of exercise. "Physical inactivity is a major epidemic in this country," Satcher said.

"There is not a single group where a majority are receiving the recommended amount of physical activity," he said.

Satcher urged the American public to become more active, suggesting moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. "What we want to do is get America up and moving," he said.

Satcher claimed the American public is "paying the price" for its physical inactivity in the form of conditions such as obesity, hypertension, colon cancer and heart disease. He presented abundant data displaying American society's sloth.

As the public's main excuses for inactivity, Satcher mentioned a lack of knowledge and motivation, fear for safety, physical pain and lack of time. But he urged the need to make exercise a top priority.

Satcher claimed physical activity is extremely beneficial for the elderly, improving their independence and quality of life. He also stated the need for exercise in the youth of today, citing the increase in teenage obesity.

Discussing solutions to our nations inactivity, Satcher noted the opportunity for exercise in everyday activities such as yard work.

He also claimed there is a role for schools and universities in the solution. "Schools ought to require daily physical education classes from grades one to 12," he said.

He also believes institutions like Dartmouth can play a tremendous role in researching the benefits of physical activity.

He noted changes in the health care system giving greater emphasis to prevention and cost-effectiveness. He indicated these as beneficial for the fitness movement.

After his speech, he was asked by a member of the audience about the relative inactivity of American physicians. Satcher joked that he didn't want to talk about it. However, he did note that doctors do need to become better role models in terms of exercise.

If the Senate approves his nomination before it adjourns its session for the year, Satcher will officially become Surgeon General. CDC spokesman Kent Taylor seemed hopeful they would vote this year.

The only controversy troubling Satcher's nomination is opposition from the National Rifle Association. There has been some concern in Congress that CDC data concerning gun use has been biased in favor of gun control.

When questioned about the issue, Satcher commented only that "the gun control issue is very volatile."