Sedentary Lifestyle
Sedentary Lifestyle is Bad for Health

The Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health makes it clear that a sedentary lifestyle is damaging to health and weight loss.

Sedentary Lifestyle Hazardous to Your Health

The Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health (USA, 1996) made one thing perfectly clear: a sedentary lifestyle is damaging to health and bears responsibility for the growing obesity problems.

It is the first Surgeon General's Report to address physical activity and health. Its main message is that people can substantially improve their health and quality of life by including moderate amounts of physical activity un their daily lives. In fact, regular exercise reduces a person's risk of premature death, as well as the risk of developing heart disease, cancer, obesity and other diseases, the report said.

The report emphasizes that the amount rather than the intensity of physical activity is important, offering people more options for incorporating physical activity into their daily lives. Thus, a moderate amount of activity can be obtained in a 30 minute brisk walk, for example, or in separate periods of raking leaves and playing with the dog. This draws on research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) in 1995.

Exercise alone is not a magic bullet

It is important for people to remember that balancing physical activity with food intake is the key to maintaining a healthy weight. This combined approach reaps other health benefits as well.

"The health benefits of regular physical activity alone are real, and the Surgeon General's Report confirms this" said John Foreyt, Ph.D. Director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and an obesity expert.

"But exercise alone is not a magic bullet for weight control. The benefits of combining physical activity with calorie control are even greater." 

The best advice, according to Foreyt: "Remember, calories still count". The current U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, and decrease calorie intake if they need to lose weight.

Surgeon General's Report's Major Conclusions:

  • Low levels of activity, resulting in fewer calories used than consumed, contribute to the high prevalence of obesity
  • Physical activity may favorably affect body fat distribution
  • People of all ages, both male and female, benefit from regular physical activity
  • Significant health benefits can be obtained by including a moderate amount of physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week
  • Additional health benefits can be gained through greater amounts of physical activity
  • Physical activity reduces the risk of premature mortality in general, and of coronary heart disease, hypertension, colon cancer, and diabetes mellitus in particular
  • Physical activity also improves mental health and is important for muscles, bones and joints

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