Walk Away

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By: Radha McLean

Seven out of every 10 Americans do not exercise regularly, according to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and announced by HHS Secretary Tommy H. Thompson on April 7, 2002—World Health Day. In addition, the report claims, four out of 10 Americans are not active at all.

“Good health is literally a walk away,” Thompson said in an HHS press release. “Just 30 minutes of walking a day, five days a week, can significantly improve your health.”

The National Center for Health Statistics and HHS surveyed 68,556 adults, ages 18 and older, in 1997. This National Health Interview Survey, which had a 77.2 percent response rate, questioned subjects about frequency and duration of light to moderate and vigorous physical activity and frequency of strengthening activity. Regular physical activity was defined as “light-moderate exercise at least five times per week for a minimum of 30 minutes each time and/or vigorous physical activity at least three times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes each time.” The researchers age-adjusted the data to the projected population in 2000.

Six in 10 adults surveyed were physically active in some way, but only three out of every 10 engaged in physical activity on a regular basis. Only two out of 10 performed any kind of strengthening activity.

The report also found that men were more likely to exercise than women and that young adults were more physically active than older adults.

In addition, individuals who were more likely to exercise tended to have higher levels of education and income; to be married (both men and women); to live in the western United States; and to reside in the suburbs. Those who were less likely to exercise tended to have lower levels of education and income; to be single; to live in the South; and to reside in rural and urban areas.

Preliminary results from the first half of 2001 show that the number of adults who exercise regularly has not changed significantly since 1997.

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