Some clear benefits to moderate physical activity

July 21, 2003|by Christine L. Moats

A lack of physical activity can more than double your chances of developing heart disease. If you are 20 pounds over your ideal body weight - the definition of obesity - you'll be more likely to develop heart disease, even if you have no other risky habits, such as smoking.

According to a 2002 survey completed by the Washington County Health Department, approximately 39 percent of 3,019 respondents were overweight, and 32 percent were considered obese. The excess weight can put a strain on your heart, increase your risk of diabetes, and raise your blood pressure and blood cholesterol.

To benefit your heart, lungs and circulation, the American Heart Association recommends vigorous exercise three to four times a week for 30 to 60 minutes. One study found that walking on a treadmill at least three hours a week at a brisk pace cut heart attack and stroke risk by more than half. According to the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 minutes of moderate activity per day provides clear benefits. Activities can include walking the dog, washing the car or playing with your kids.


Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight will help your heart, and you'll feel and look better. Several factors contribute to being overweight in this country, such as advanced communication and transportation systems that allow us to sit more and move less, convenience meals which replace healthier meals, and our preference for eating oversized portions.

Here are some guidelines for a health weight:

  • Eat a low-fat diet.

  • Decrease your portion sizes.

  • Follow an eating plan that allows you to eat sensibly. Most women can lose an average of one to two pounds a week by consuming 1,200 to 1,500 calories each day; most men can lose this amount by consuming 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day.

  • Engage in physical activity as a way of life.

  • Do activities that you enjoy, so you will stick with them.

- Sources:;; and the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene.

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