Listening to NPR’s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me last night, I heard a trivia news fact about the CDC that really bugged me.
Last month, the CDC came out with its latest Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (it’s the nation’s largest telephone survey to try to get some statistics on overall health). Fine, right? Only the big spin-doctoring machine came out in full force, “adjusting” the list of exercise activities to include several that, I’m afraid to realistically report, *aren’t* exercise. The CDC is supposed to be the nation’s public health squad. They research, they report; they don’t fudge data or alter methods to get better results. But in this case, they did. (Were they doing to get in trouble if they didn’t try to show some sort of improvement?) Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson said that Americans should realize that “small steps toward a more physically active life yield significant health benefits.”
What’s the big deal, you might ask? Relax, Graham. But hold on. Wait, wait–let me tell you. Here’s a small sample of the list of newly added “light activities” (the last two being my personal favorites):
* sitting in a whirlpool bath
* playing video games
* light office work
* making photocopies
* fishing (yes, while sitting in the boat)
* floating in water
* “purposeless wandering”
So where’s it end? Yesterday, I studied for 8 hours for finals tomorrow, I blinked a lot, washed my hands, spoke to friends–do those count? I also drank a lot of water, and ate a couple meals; techincally, my mandible-grinding and esophogeal peristalsis (food being pushed down your food tube) require energy. They exercise, too?
Oh, and what’s worse (ready for it?): even with those flimsy definitions of exercise, 55% of Americans still aren’t getting enough of their daily dose.
I generally rely on the CDC for accurate, objective information (well, most of the time). If it starts to cater to spin doctoring, does this make some sort of precedent? I mean, technically, you could say no Americans have “died” in Iraq; rather, their biological functions ceased to continue. Works for me.