Exercise is not dead, by any means, in the United States. The usual headlines highlighting the disturbing infrequency of exercise by U.S. citizens, as well as the dismal percentages of Americans who are obese, tend to produce a negative view regarding exercise. However, consider the following statistics that demonstrate clearly the vigor with which Americans engage in physical activity:
In the United States, approximately 30 million children and adolescents participate in some form of organized sport, and approximately 30 million people in the United States enjoy running, with 10 million people running on a regular basis.1 Americans place maintaining good physical health and keeping up their physical appearance among the top of their personal priorities, with 97% of Americans saying these are essential. An annual consumer report determined that the 33 million Americans who currently belong to health clubs visited gyms an average of 89 times per year, translating into nearly 3 billion visits in 2001.2
The total number of health-club patrons, including both members and nonmembers, climbed 7%, from 54.5 million in 2000 to 58.3 million people in 2001.2
The positive benefits of exercise are well-studied at this time. Performing regular exercise on most days of the week reduces the risk of developing (or dying from) some of the conditions that are the leading causes of illness and death in the United States. (Seethe box on page 317 entitled "Benefits of Activity.'') It is clear that keeping fit is an important part of life for many people. In addition to getting in shape, people are increasingly looking for ways to maintain a competitive edge in sports. The use of supplements as ergogenic supports is increasingly popular among all athletes. Using natural medicines can help athletes to maintain their health and can help to prevent exercise-related injuries. Many natural medicines that athletes use counteract the pro-oxidative effects of exercise, limit joint wear, decrease inflammation, and increase energy, thereby positioning athletes, whether they are professionals or amateurs, for optimal wellness.
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