Physical Fitness and Sports

By: Angela Howard Email
By: Angela Howard Email

The following is an interview with Dr. Nancy Van Vessem, M.D.:

ANGELA: Nancy, what is the biggest problem today?

NANCY: The biggest health problem we have as Americans is not getting enough exercise. Research has shown approximately 25 percent to 35 percent of American adults are inactive meaning that they have sedentary jobs, no regular physical activity program and are generally inactive around the house or yard. This amounts to 40 million to 50 million people exposed to the hazard of inactivity. These individuals are doubling their risk of developing numerous health conditions compared with those who are even moderately active and fit.

ANGELA: What health conditions are associated with lack of exercise?

NANCY: There is Strong Evidence that exercise:
• Lowers risk of:
o Early death
o Heart disease
o Stroke
o Type 2 diabetes
o High blood pressure
o Adverse blood lipid profile
o Metabolic syndrome
o Colon and breast cancers
• Prevention of weight gain
• Weight loss when combined with diet
• Improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
• Prevention of falls
• Reduced depression
• Better cognitive function (older adults)

ANGELA: How much exercise is recommended? Let's start with the kids.

NANCY: Children and Adolescents (aged 6–17):
• Children and adolescents should do 1 hour (60 minutes) or more of physical activity every day.
• Most of the 1 hour or more a day should be either moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.
• As part of their daily physical activity, children and adolescents should do vigorous-intensity activity on at least 3 days per week. They also should do muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activity on at least 3 days per week.

Adults (aged 18–64):
• Adults should do 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, or 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, preferably spread throughout the week.
• Additional health benefits are provided by increasing to 5 hours (300 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both.
• Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups performed on 2 or more days per week.

Older Adults (aged 65 and older):
• Older adults should follow the adult guidelines. If this is not possible due to limiting chronic conditions, older adults should be as physically active as their abilities allow. They should avoid inactivity. Older adults should do exercises that maintain or improve balance if they are at risk of falling.

ANGELA: What’s the Bottom Line ?

NANCY: For all individuals, some activity is better than none. Physical activity is safe for almost everyone, and the health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks. People without diagnosed chronic conditions (such as diabetes, heart disease, or osteoarthritis) and who do not have symptoms (e.g., chest pain or pressure, dizziness, or joint pain) do not need to consult with a health care provider about physical activity.

For a link to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition website with more information on staying fit and exercise, scroll down and click on the link under 'Related Links'.

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