Monday, August 3, 2009
And the winner of the poll is ... everyone!
The results are in from my highly unscientific poll intended to gauge whether my readers are gym rats or couch potatoes. Thanks to its poor design, I'll never know.
With a whopping 18 respondents, the breakdown was as follows: 8 people, or 44.5 percent, reported that they exercise daily, another 8 people (also 44.5 percent, for the math-impaired) reported exercising at least once a week, and 2 people, or 11 percent, said they exercise once a week. No one reported exercising only rarely.
Now I didn't define exercise for purposes of this poll, so for all I know, a half-hour of gardening was given as much weight by the respondents as a 60-minute sweat-fest on the elliptical trainer. But it really doesn't matter, because the point is, those of you who responded are active in some way, and that already puts you ahead of an estimated 40 percent of Americans who live a sedentary lifestyle.
In 1995, the American College of Sports Medicine released its "exercise lite" recommendations for adults. The guidelines were intended to educate the public about the health benefits of even moderate exercise, in recognition that a one-size-fits-all approach to exercise does not work. It turns out that for basic health benefits, you don't have to practically kill yourself at the gym for hours every day (if your goal is weight loss, however, you will have to work a little harder).
The guidelines were updated in 2007, in conjunction with the American Heart Association, and can be found in detail here.
For healthy adults under 65, the guidelines call for "moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week or vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, three days a week, and 8 to 10 strength-training exercises, with 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise, twice a week." For adults over 65, the cardio recommendations are the same, but the strength-training recommendations are adjusted slightly.
The cardio activity can be accumulated in bouts of at least 10 minutes each — not a huge time commitment when you think about it.
A study published in 2008 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion found that 67.5 percent of all adults reported watching TV or videos an average of two hours or more a day within the previous month, and 25.2 percent of adults reported using a computer outside of work an average of two hours or more a day. Cleary, Americans have some extra time, but prefer to sit on it.
A sedentary lifestyle has been shown to be a risk factor for obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other health problems. So let's get up and move!
Oh, and be on the lookout for further polls. They may not be scientific, but I think they're fun.