Monday, May 3, 2010

National Physical Activity Plan Will Try to Get People Moving

“One day, most kids may jump on their bikes and ride to school. While they're there, they'll be playing active games in high-caliber physical education classes and doing lots of fun recreational activities before and after school. Adults should be able to walk, bike or jog to work, the grocery store or a local park or community recreation center, where they will be able play golf or tennis or take exercise classes. And doctors may talk to their patients about an important new ‘vital sign’ — their physical activity level. These are among the goals that could be achieved with comprehensive, wide-ranging strategies outlined in the new U.S. National Physical Activity Plan, which is being released today by an expert panel representing influential health organizations. Among groups involved are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. The purpose: to create an environment in which Americans can be physically active where they live, work and play, says Russell Pate, an exercise researcher at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina-Columbia. He chaired the panel. Experts have been encouraging people to be physically active for years because it lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and a long list of other health problems. To get the health benefits of exercise, adults need at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity activity a week, such as brisk walking, or 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity, such as jogging or swimming laps, or a combination, federal guidelines say. But right now, only 31% of Americans do enough regular leisure-time physical activity; about 40% do no regular leisure-time physical activity, government statistics show. Exercise tough to fit in The national physical activity guidelines have not been sufficient to get people moving, Pate says. ‘Educating, cajoling and finger-wagging are not enough.’ It's difficult to work physical activity into daily life, partly because of sprawling communities and long commutes, and many people don't have safe and attractive places to walk, he says. Colleen Doyle, nutrition and physical activity director for the American Cancer Society and a member of the panel that created the plan, says, ‘We are at a crisis with our health in large part because we eat too much and we're not active enough.’”

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