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The Surgeon General's recommendation is a lifestyle intervention, recognizing that people have time constraints and are frequently resistant to the ACSM guidelines. The Surgeon General's guidelines offer people alternatives to formal exercise and they can still get healthier and improve their fitness.

Lifestyle activities could include:

  • Climbing the stairs more
  • Raking your own leaves instead of calling the kid down the street to do it for you (use a rake instead of a leaf blower)
  • Mowing the lawn with a push mower
  • Washing the car by hand (I remember as a kid washing the car by hand with my family and how much fun that was)

We need to start to think about ways in our life that we can be physically active again. The environment is such that labor saving devices do all of the work for us, so get rid of the robo mower and start doing some of these physical activities.

Also, park the car farther from the store or your office and walk more.

How many times do people pull into a parking lot at the mall and drive around for five to ten minutes looking for a space closest to the store? Instead, park as far away and start to work on accumulating those 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity.

The good news is that if you follow the Surgeon General's guideline, which presumably is easier to follow than more vigorous guidelines, you can still get healthy and fit. For people who have either taken the summer off or just need to get started again, this is the perfect way to do it, with lifestyle activities.

Member question: I have just started workouts in the gym a week ago. I find that the total calories burned in treadmill, elliptical, and stationery bicycling does not increase considerably with increase in speed or time. Is that a bad sign?

Weil: The reality is that exercise, by itself, doesn't burn as many calories as people always think. It's possible that the machine is miscalibrated at the gym, but more than likely it's simply that in 30 to 40 minutes of exercise, you may burn anywhere from 250 to 400 calories and not much more. So in terms of strict caloric expenditure and losing weight, exercise is helpful, but it's also important to reduce the number of calories that you eat if you're interested in losing weight.

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