Lt. Cmdr. Jim McGowan is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and member of the Medical Service Corps with a Master of Science degree. Just before his departure to the Naval Hospital Sigonella, Italy, in June, to report as the department head of nutrition management, CHIPS asked McGowan about his experiences as the Nutrition Programs Manager for the Navy and advice for a healthy lifestyle.
CHIPS: Do you think the increase in use of electronic games and devices among young adults and children has contributed to the sedentary lifestyle in these previously active age groups?
Lt. Cmdr. McGowan: If you wanted to determine why someone has become sedentary and look at different electronic devices, you could say that video games might be a contributor. Many children and young adults would rather sit in front of the television for hours playing Xbox, PS2 (PlayStation 2), etc., instead of riding a bike, running or playing.
However, while it is easy to say that inactivity is caused by spending too much time playing electronic games, the root cause is much bigger. Often parents allow this behavior to occur instead of encouraging outside activities. Physical activities in schools have also decreased giving the children the option of computer time or play time leading to more sedentary children.
CHIPS: Technology is so much a part of our lives, could technology play in a role in encouraging people to become physically fit?
Lt. Cmdr. McGowan: Absolutely. There are many computer-based programs for children which promote healthy eating and increased activity. Also, many people use pedometers (step counters) to measure calories burned. Some pedometers can be connected to a personal computer to upload data for analysis. The bottom line to remember is that no matter how fancy the program or device, you still have to get out there and exercise.
CHIPS: What do you say to someone who tells you that my job is too important; I don't have time to exercise or eat healthy? Does stress play a role in poor eating habits?
Lt. Cmdr. McGowan: 'I don't have time to exercise' is the biggest excuse I hear. And while your job may be important, if you are not able to perform your job due to poor health (resulting from a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating), then everyone loses. Most people think that exercise is a formal routine that requires at least an hour in the gym; however, all activities count toward exercising. Planning is the key. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends the following regarding activity… (See the text box below.)
We all have a certain amount of stress in our lives. Excessive daily stress often leads to unhealthy eating habits and health problems. The goal is to find ways to manage it. Most bases have Health Promotion Centers which offer stress management classes. Additionally, exercise is an excellent stress reducer!
Recommendations for a Healthy Lifestyle
Engage in regular physical activity and reduce sedentary activities to promote health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight.
To reduce the risk of chronic disease in adulthood: Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, above usual activity, at work or home on most days of the week.
For most people, greater health benefits can be obtained by engaging in physical activity of more vigorous intensity or longer duration.
To help manage body weight and prevent gradual, unhealthy body weight gain in adulthood: Engage in approximately 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity on most days of the week while not exceeding caloric intake requirements.
To sustain weight loss in adulthood: Participate in at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate exercise or calisthenics for muscle strength and endurance.
Put down that PDA and get moving!