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Medical Groups Ask Doctors to Order Regular Exercise for Their Patients

Nov. 5, 2007 -- Take a walk around the neighborhood and call me in the morning.

That's what you're likely to hear from your doctor if several big medical groups succeed in their latest public relations push. The groups, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Sports Medicine, want doctors to order regular exercise for practically all their patients.

The new campaign is called "Exercise is Medicine."

Medical groups, insurers, and even top government officials for years have struggled to convince Americans to exercise more, hoping to motivate an ever-more sedentary American society. Alert after alert warns that the economy cannot sustain the cost of care for the two-thirds of American adults who are overweight or obese.

Now doctors' groups say their members have to get more involved.

Doctors must now take moderate exercise "and prescribe it liberally to their patients," says Robert Sallis, MD, president of the American College of Sports Medicine. "Every physician, every specialty has to be on this same message"

(Do you exercise regularly? Why or why not? Tell us about it on WebMD's Health Cafe message board.)

Exercise as Medication

The CDC recommends that adults who are able get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least five days per week. That moderate-intensity level of activity, included in a brisk walk or kicking a soccer ball with the kids, is shown to significantly reduce the risk of obesity-related problems like heart disease and diabetes.

"Exercise is really a free medication," AMA President Ron Davis, MD, told reporters at a briefing in Washington.

Davis said that exercise should not be an "option" but should be as critical as blood pressure or cholesterol tests.

"A person's activity level should be regarded as a vital sign," he said.

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