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Bill Proposed in Congress Calls for New Recommendations for Physical Activity

March 12, 2008 -- The federal government would generate new physical activity recommendations for Americans of all age groups under a bill introduced in Congress this week.

Rising obesity rates caught the attention of public health experts years ago. More recently lawmakers have begun focusing on the problem. Many food companies have announced moves to market healthier food, while Congress has taken small steps to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption, particularly in school lunches.

"We also need to deal with this from a physical activity angle," says Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who is sponsoring the bill.

The government already issues recommendations for physical activity. The CDC recommends adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days or more per week. That includes activities like brisk walking, swimming, or mowing the lawn.

But few adults manage to get that much exercise most days.

Mixing Exercise Into the Daily Routine

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the bill's main sponsor, says the new recommendations would be more specific and better publicized than current guidelines. They would also be mixed into existing nutrition recommendations.

"It's no different than having your physical, mental, spiritual parts be integrated," says Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., the bill's main House sponsor.

The idea of integrating physical exercise into the daily school or work routine has been getting a little more attention lately on Capitol Hill.

Some lawmakers say they prefer to walk the distance from their offices to the Capitol instead of using the subways running underground in the House and Senate.

"I was late. I took the stairs," Brownback said after arriving in the middle of a news conference announcing the bill on the third floor of the Russell Senate Office Building.

Harkin boasts that he often uses stairs instead of the elevator to reach his office on the seventh floor of the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.

But if daily exercise is a trend with a few lawmakers, it hasn't spread to everyone. One evening last month the automated subway connecting two Senate office buildings to the Capitol broke down, stranding several passengers. Lawmakers who are accustomed to riding the train were forced to walk to the Capitol for a vote.

Several lawmakers were seen walking, out of breath, onto the Senate floor.

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