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IFCN Surgeon General’s Report

A New View of Physical Activity

This report brings together, for the first time, what has been learned about physical activity and health from decades of research. Among its major findings: People who are usually inactive can improve their health and well-being by becoming even moderately active on a regular basis. Physical activity need not be strenuous to achieve health benefits. Greater health benefits can be achieved by increasing the amount (duration, frequency, or intensity) of physical activity.

The Benefits of Regular Physical Activity

Regular physical activity that is performed on most days of the week reduces the risk of developing or dying from some of the leading causes of illness and death in the United States. Regular physical activity improves health in the following ways:

A Major Public Health Concern

Given the numerous health benefits of physical activity, the hazards of being inactive are clear. Physical inactivity is a serious, nationwide problem. Its scope poses a public health challenge for reducing the national burden of unnecessary illness and premature death.

What is a Moderate Amount of Physical Activity?

As the examples listed below show, a moderate amount of physical activity* can be achieved in a variety of ways. People can select activities that they enjoy and that fit into their daily lives. Because amount of activity is a function of duration , intensity, and frequency, the same amount of activity can be obtained in longer sessions of moderately intense activities (such as brisk walking) as in shorter sessions of more strenuous activities (such as running):**

*A moderate amount of physical activity is roughly equivalent to physical activity that uses approximately 150 Calories (kcal) of energy per day, or 1,000 Calories per week.

**Some activities can be performed at various intensities; the suggested durations correspond to expected intensity of effort.

Precautions for a Healthy Start

To avoid soreness and injury, individuals contemplating an increase in physical activity should start out slowly and gradually build up to the desired amount to give the body time to adjust. People with chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, or obesity, or who are at high risk for these problems should first consult a physician before beginning a new program of physical activity. Also, men over age 40 and women over age 50 who plan to begin a new vigorous physical activity program should consult a physician first to be sure they do not have heart disease or other health problems.

Status of the Nation – A Need for a Change

Adults

Adolescents and Young Adults

High School Students

In high school, enrollment in daily physical education classes dropped from 42 percent in 1991 to 25 percent in 1995.
Only 19 percent of all high school students are physically active for 20 minutes or more in physical education classes every day during the school week.

Ideas for Improvement

This report identifies promising ways to help people include more physical activity in their daily lives.

Special Messages for Special Populations

Older Adults

No one is too old to enjoy the benefits of regular physical activity. Of special interest to older adults is evidence that muscle-strengthening exercises can reduce the risk of falling and fracturing bones and can improve that ability to live independently.

Parents

Parents can help their children maintain a physically active lifestyle by providing encouragement and opportunities for physical activity. Family events can include opportunities for everyone in the family to be active.

Teenagers

Regular physical activity improves strength, builds lean muscle, and decreases body fat. It can build stronger bones to last a lifetime.

Dieters

Regular physical activity burns Calories and preserves lean muscle mass. It is a key component of any weight loss effort and is important for controlling weight.

People with High Blood Pressure

Regular physical activity helps lower blood pressure.

People Feeling Anxious, Depressed, or Moody

Regular physical activity improves mood, helps relieve depression, and increases feelings of well-being.

People with Arthritis

Regular physical activity can help control joint swelling and pain. Physical activity of the type and amount recommended for health has not been shown to cause arthritis.

People with Disabilities

Regular physical activity can help people with chronic, disabling conditions improve their stamina and muscle strength and can improve psychological well-being and quality of life by increasing the ability to perform activities of daily life.

For more information contact:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, MS K-46 4770 Buford Highway, NE Atlanta, GA 30341 1-888-CDC-4NRG or 1-888-232-4674 (Toll Free) http://www.cdc.gov

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