Data, Statistics

Are sports the key to healthy communities?

By Laura Danielson, Communications Manager, The Polis Center

America's Health Rankings

America’s Health Rankings

I’ve never been a huge sports fan. I mean, sure, I enjoy watching the occasional championship game or filling out an NCAA bracket, but to be perfectly honest, I still choose my bracket winner based on which mascot I like best.

But lately, it seems all I hear about in the news is sports. Last weekend, America watched the Indy 500 end with a completely unexpected finish as first-time winner Tony Kanaan captured the coveted checkered flag in a nail-biting victory. Basketball fans all over are watching the NBA Eastern Conference finals to see if the Indiana Pacers can truly “beat the Heat.” And in local news, the Indy Parks Foundation, in partnership with IPL and the Pacers Foundation, just broke ground on the new Tamika Catchings Court at Thatcher Park Family Center. The new court is part of a larger multi-million dollar project to renovate and improve outdoor basketball courts in an effort to provide safe recreational activities for Indianapolis kids. Read more about this project.

I got to thinking, why do we care so much about sports? Entertainment, of course. But also because sports are a way to stay fit and healthy. So, in a way, when we promote a sports-minded community, we also promote healthy activity. When we encourage our children to participate in sports or physical activity, we are motivating them to be active.

Jay Gladden, dean of the IU School of Physical Education and Tourism Management at IUPUI, agrees. The school partnered with the American College of Sports Medicine to host an open Sports Innovation Forum yesterday at the NCAA to discuss recent trends and innovation in sports and physical activity in Central Indiana.

“We are considering ways that Central Indiana could become a hub or point of significant activity around innovation and sports and exercise, with a focus on improved health outcomes,” Gladden said. “With obesity statistics where they are for adults and children and with new health care legislation coming into play, the time is right to begin this conversation, given the many opportunities that will exist for products and programs.” Read the full press release.

The time is right, indeed. The United Health Foundation’s annual America’s Health Rankings report for 2012 listed Indiana as the ninth unhealthiest state in the nation (or 41st healthiest, if you want to be optimistic). The report, which considers factors such as smoking, obesity, alcohol use, education, and public health funding, reveals some very troubling statistics for Indiana.

 – More than 25% of adults smoke.

– Nearly one-third (30.8%) of the adult population is obese.

– Nearly 30% of adults live a sedentary lifestyle.

Let’s consider those stats next to a few health outcome measures.

– More than 30% of adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

– Nearly 40% of adults have reported high cholesterol.

There is (sort of) a silver lining in that Americans are living longer, primarily due to advancements in medicine. But is it really a good thing if we’re living longer but we’re living sicker and are less healthy? It’s clear that we need to discuss options to impact positive change in Indiana’s health. Perhaps increasing our focus on sports and youth physical activity is the place to begin.

What do YOU think?


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