Get Moving -- and Often, Says New Report
April 20, 2000 -- We used to call them couch potatoes. Now many of them are
out there, trying to walk off the weight -- but frustrated that it's not
working. Turns out, most are not exercisingoften enough to melt the
A new survey from the CDC shows that over half of adults over age 18 are
either overweight or downright obese. Two-thirds of them are trying to lose
weight through physical activity -- especially walking -- but only one in five
is actually exercising enough to lose weight.
The study is based on randomly conducted telephone surveys -- taken in 1998
-- of nearly 150,000 adults in all 50 states as well as in the District of
"Although most persons exercised for about 30 minutes per session, only
a minority exercised at least five times a week," Mary Ellen Simpson, PhD,
RN, epidemiologist in the CDC's Nutrition and Physical Activity/Chronic Disease
Center, tells WebMD.
To lose weight, the CDC recommends 30 minutes of exercise most days
of the week.
Take it seriously, says Simpson. "Obesity is not simply a cosmetic
disorder. It's a public health concern. It puts you at risk for [heart disease
and stroke], diabetes, cancer, many chronic diseases."
And while regular exercise is "no magic bullet, it boosts energy level,
and can help you lose weight when it's coupled with a reduced-calorie
diet," she adds. "We're really trying to advocate [a balanced diet]
that's primarily fruits and vegetables and limited in fats and sweets. That's
the safest and best way to lose weight ... We don't want people to get the
false impression that liquid or fad diets are OK."
Even people who have been inactive for some time can work their way up to
the CDC's goals, says Simpson. "They can initiate a program of starting
slowly and building up in intensity to 30 minutes of moderate activity."
Some examples are brisk walking, gardening, raking leaves, bicycling, pushing a
stroller, and swimming laps. "We want people to be safe, to increase as
they can. The real key here is regular physical activity."
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