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The Super Bowl gives physical fitness experts an opportunity to make the case for getting in shape.

The Super Bowl certainly motivates the players to go all out for victory, but it motivates millions of fans as well.

It motivates them to arrange their lives so they can sit for hours in front of the TV watching every play of the game.

The Super Bowl does not, however, appear to motivate fans to embrace the essence of professional football, which is physical fitness.

Instead, football fans, like much of the population of the U.S., tend to be overweight, out of shape, and sedentary. Twenty-six percent of Americans get no exercise at all, according to the CDC. Many won't even walk up a flight of stairs if they can avoid it.

Exercise Excuses

Why do Americans tend to avoid exercise?

Many say they don't have time and find exercise boring.

Many exercise physiologists, however, suspect a bigger problem may be lack of knowledge; if people really understood the enormous benefits of exercise, they would just do it.

"Exercise seems to affect everything," says Cris Slentz, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. "In my opinion, if you understand that exercise is really good for you, you'll make it a No. 1 priority. If you don't, you won't. I believe knowledge is a big part of it. We all have the same amount of time."

How Moderate Exercise Helps

Exercise, according to Slentz, prevents one of the biggest threats to good health -- the accumulation of fat beneath the skin and around the internal organs, such as the liver and the heart. This gives rise to abdominal obesity. Excess fat weakens the body's ability to burn glucose (blood sugar), which then accumulates in the bloodstream, setting the stage for diabetes and an array of health problems.

The good news, Slentz says, is that even moderate amounts of exercise can prevent weight gain. In a study published recently in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Slentz and colleagues demonstrated that even a brisk 30-minute walk five or six days a week was enough to prevent significant fat accumulation.

"People in the inactive group gained significant weight -- about two pounds every six months," Slentz says. "But those who exercised, even at lower intensity, had some pretty remarkable benefits. In fact, people in the low-intensity group actually had better triglyceride reduction. Some had lipid responses that were more robust than in the higher intensity group."

More exercise, however, is generally better.

"Those in the higher dose group, who jogged 17-18 miles per week, had the biggest benefits," says Slentz. Still, a growing body of research demonstrates that even moderate exercise brings significant health benefits.

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