Medical expert Dr. Mohan S. Palaniswami answers common questions about diet and fitness:
Q: I've been repeatedly told to "get more exercise," but what does this mean?
A: Exercise has always been one of the best treatments in managing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and hypertension as well as maintaining healthy bones, muscles and joints. Studies have demonstrated that exercise reduces the risk of dying prematurely, of developing diabetes, of developing high blood pressure, and of developing colon cancer. Exercise also promotes mental health by reducing anxiety and alleviating depression.
Exercise does not need to be strenuous to achieve health benefits. Both men and women of any age benefit from a moderate amount of daily physical activity. If a person was previously sedentary, short sessions of physical activity lasting five to 10 minutes, such as walks, will suffice until the sessions gradually get longer. Individuals should work toward a goal of moderate-strain activity (equivalent to 30 minutes of brisk walking) or shorter goals of strenuous activity (equivalent to 15-20 minutes of jogging). For those with chronic health problems, advanced disease, men over age 40, and women over age 50, consultation with a physician prior to starting an exercise regimen is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As Americans, we are failing to even achieve nominal amounts of exercise sufficient to achieve these goals. Statistics compiled by the CDC indicate 25 percent of U.S. adults are inactive and 60 percent do not engage in the recommended amount of exercise. The populations most at risk are women, African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, the elderly and lower socioeconomic groups.
For more information, please see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Physical Activity Initiative at www.cdc.gov.