Don’t Be a Slouch, Start Moving


Research shows that a low level of physical activity exposes a patient to a greater risk of dying than smoking, obesity, hypertension, or high cholesterol. For older men, regular physical activity can decrease the risk of death by 40%.

Related: Click here to read Exercise: the New Doctor's Orders

The 2008 U.S. Federal Fitness Guidelines and many other studies show that 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity is required to achieve many health benefits.

Pluses of physical activity

Did you know that regular physical activity can:

-Reduce mortality and the risk of recurrent breast cancer by approximately 50%

-Lower the risk of colon cancer by more than 60%

-Reduce the risk of developing of Alzheimers disease by approximately 40%

-Reduce the incidence of heart disease and high blood pressure by approximately 40%

-Lower the risk of stroke by 27%

-Lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%

-Be twice as effective in treating type 2 diabetes than the standard insulin prescription and can save $2,250 per person, per year when compared to the cost of standard drug treatment

-Can decrease depression as effectively as Prozac or behavioral therapy

-Adults with better muscle strength have a 20% lower risk of mortality (33% lower risk of cancer specific mortality) than adults with low muscle strength

-Regular physical activity has been shown to lead to higher SAT scores for adolescents

-In an elementary school setting, regular physical activity can decrease discipline incidents involving violence by 59% and decrease out of school suspensions by 67%

Robert E. Sallis, a Kaiser Permanente fellow and co-director of sports medicine at Kaiser Permanente in Fontana, Calif., and Exercise is Medicine (EIM) chair, says its important to dispel a few myths surrounding what constituents being fit.

A low level of fitness is a bigger risk factor for mortality than mild-moderate obesity, says Sallis. Its better to be fit and overweight than unfit and skinny with a lower percentage of body fat. Its easier to move physical activity than it is the scale.

Talk and sing your way to fitness

Exercise varies among people in pace, intensity and routine.

The person whos running a marathon gets a slightly bigger bang for the buck than a person whos just walking, says Sallis. But not to short-shrift walking, which is a bigger bang for the buck for quality of life than the person whos doing nothing.

But remember, Unless you get your heart rate elevated and youre breathing harder, you are not getting the full benefit of the exercise, says Ellen Burton, EIM program officer. Its like taking a childrens dose of a drug.

She recommends taking this easy self- sing-talk test: At moderate intensity physical activity, you should still be able to talk and not be completely out of breath. If however, you are exercising hard enough you will not be able to sing or sustain a note.

I have a good friend who competes in triathlons, says Burton. Youd expect a lot more capacity from her than from me.

That said, Burton is still proud of her physical activity quotient but there is one  little caveat: I wont be belting out what I heard on American Idol at the gym any time soon.