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All the little stuff adds up, Simpson adds. "We know benefits can [accumulate]. Taking the stairs at work, parking a distance from your office building, playing with the kids on the weekend ... people can work many kinds of physical activity into their days."

It's not always easy, she acknowledges. "Many communities don't have sidewalks ... people take the car for trips that are less than a mile away when they could walk or bicycle instead."

To help the public, Simpson reports the CDC is launching a nationwide set of worksite and community-based programs to promote physical activity. The Kids Walk to School program promotes walking and biking to school. The CDC is also working with the National Park Service to develop parks, trails, and greenways.

"Regular physical exercise is the key factor in successful long-term weight maintenance," Simpson tells WebMD. "It's the safest and best way to lose weight."

The CDC's findings are no surprise, Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, assistant professor of nutrition at Georgia State University, tells WebMD. "People are recognizing that exercise is a component [of weight loss], but we're still finding too many barriers in our way to do that. ... I'm on the eighth floor and usually walk the stairs twice a day, but it's gloomy, it's hidden. At one of the CDC's buildings, they actually carpeted a stairwell, decorated it, to encourage people to take the stairs."

She adds: "Research shows that even basic activities of living are eroding because we have such a technological society. ... All these labor-saving devices are horrible for us health-wise. People need to examine their days, think about all the things they do," says Rosenbloom.

Remember, too, you are what you eat, says Rosenbloom, who is a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "Exercise helps, but you can easily undo the benefits with a few bites of your favorite fast food."

Vital Information:

  • The CDC reports more than half of Americans older than 18 are either overweight or obese. Two-thirds of them are trying to lose weight, but only a small number get enough exercise to make a difference.
  • To lose weight, the CDC recommends that people exercise just about every day for at least 30 minutes. A healthy diet also is important.
  • CDC officials emphasize being physically active on a regular basis, and even walking or doing yard work is good for starters. Observers note many don't have easy access to facilities that help them exercise, but even such things as walking longer distances through parking lots and using stairs each day can help.

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