Physical Activity and Exercise

Physical activity is a key component of a healthy lifestyle for reasons ranging from stress reduction to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. It is also an important component of preventing and treating obesity. Everyone should include physical activity in their daily routine whenever possible (e.g., walk over lunch hour, using stairs) as well as a more formal exercise program. An advantage of exercise is that more calories can be expended in a given period. The choice of exercise depends on individual interests and should be scheduled into the day as a priority. For those who have been sedentary, gradually starting an exercise is advisable. In general, the goal should be 30 minutes of moderately vigorous physical activity most days of the week. To promote weight loss, a goal of 60 minutes may be more appropriate and, to maintain weight loss, even up to 90 minutes a day may be necessary. A popular program promoting physical activity encourages people to walk 10,000 steps each day or at least an initial increase of 2000 steps over baseline. A simple pedometer allows people to follow their progress. As noted earlier, children's sedentary activities (e.g., TV/computer time) can be limited to 2 hours daily or less. A similar attempt to limit sedentary activities during adult off-work hours may also be helpful (Table 36-5) (Hu et al., 2003).

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