The study, “Prevalence of Optimal Metabolic Health in American Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009-2016,” was published online Nov. 28, 2018 in the journal Metabolic Syndrome and Disroders. I propose that similarly few Americans are musculoskeletally healthy.
While there may be some debate over the absolute best criteria to use to determine metabolic health, the five used in this study are clearly important. For instance, some clinicians argue that insulin level is a more significant barometer of health than glucose level.
For musculoskeletal health, as I have written before, I propose that the criteria are: full joint mobility; full strength; full nerve extensibility; and full, pain-free function. Function means being able to do what you want to do with your body and not being limited by musculoskeletal problems. (Be aware: not being able to do something can be limited by fitness, not problems.) Yes, full, pain-free function is less objective and more individual than the other three metrics, but it is still relevant and critical.
Could you make the argument that being able to walk 1 mile in under 15 minutes should also be a criterion? Or that normal musculoskeletal health means you should be able to get up from a chair without needing your hands? Sure. Those demands, though, usually require that you meet the basic criteria. There’s certainly room for debate, and we do have valid tests that measure people’s ability to do things like this.
However, whichever metrics we use - the simple ones I propose or more involved ones - it’s clear from my experience (ten years working in orthopedics) that not many Americans would fit the criteria for being musculoskeletally healthy. -- Laura
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