In Shape

Exercise and the Dietary Guidelines

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines put a strong emphasis on physical activity. For guidance, FoodFit turned to health expert William J. McCarthy, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the UCLA School of Public Health. Here are his helpful tips for fitting in fitness.

FoodFit   The 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend 30 to 90 minutes of physical activity every day. Do you agree with this advice?



Exercise is good and more is better-if you can spare the time. Many Americans could spare the time if some of the time they spent watching television every day was instead spent on activities involving moderate physical activity, such as walking, vacuuming, bicycling, swimming, gardening, mowing the lawn, etc.

Rather than exhorting only the heaviest Americans to do 90 minutes of physical activity a day, the Dietary Guidelines would have done better to encourage all Americans to gradually increase whatever their current physical activity levels are by, say, 10 percent per month and to continue monthly until the law of diminishing returns sets in or until the nationally recommended levels of daily physical activity have been met.

FoodFit   What suggestions do you have for fitting in exercise?



Out-of-house social activities of any kind are fun ways to be more physically active. Volunteering at a local school or library will keep people on their feet much more than if they stayed home.

For many Americans, it's less a question of how to fit in exercise as to how to keep down the sedentariness of everyday activities, especially television watching. The American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other professional health organizations now recommend that Americans limit their television watching to a maximum of two hours a day, with one hour a day being clearly even better.

Teenagers, interestingly enough, typically spend less time watching television than other age groups because they are so busy with extracurricular activities, not necessarily involving sports. Here is finally a topic where the rest of us can take our cue from the teenagers: To stay physically active, keep busy!

FoodFit   Can activities like vacuuming your house count towards the 30 to 90 minute goal?



Yes. A recent analysis of the Nurses' Health Study showed that nurses registered a 12 percent reduction of risk of suffering from diabetes for every additional two hours of standing on their feet at home (e.g., vacuuming) as opposed to sitting.

Laundry, dusting, vacuuming, changing sheets, putting dishes away, etc. are everyday activities that can help reduce risk of obesity and measurably increase health prospects. Now if only we could persuade the men of that fact, maybe they would do more around the house!

FoodFit   Can you exercise in increments (say 10 to 15 minutes of brisk walking), or are the benefits only gained with a longer workout?



For most Americans, who fail to get 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week, the research suggests that even shorter bouts, as little as 10 minutes a day, can confer measurable health benefit. Three 10-minute bouts a day, in other words, may be considered to have met the national recommendation for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day.

Is more better? Yes! But one should not let pursuit of the "best" discourage achievement of the merely "good." Every 10-minute bout of physical activity that a person can squeeze into his or her busy day contributes to better body functioning and reduced risk of preventable disease.


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