December 18, 2009

UK: Hardly any adults do the recommended amount of exercise

. LONDON, England / The Guardian / Society / Health / December 18, 2009 Survey reveals 94% of men and 96% of women do not achieve amount of exercise recommended to keep them fit and healthy By Sarah Boseley, health editor Only a very tiny proportion of men and women actually do the amount of exercise recommended to keep them fit and healthy, a comprehensive study shows today. The Department of Health recommends that adults should get 30 minutes moderate exercise, five days a week. But the annual Health Survey for England (HSE) reveals today that 94% of men and 96% of women do not achieve it. Many people think they are being more active than they actually are, according to the research director of the Health Survey for England When 15,000 adults were asked how much moderate exercise they had taken, 38% of men and 29% of women thought they had hit the target. But when researchers from the National Centre for Social Research and University College London gave a representative sample of the interviewees an accelerometer to wear for a week – a device which measures how much activity a person does – it showed a very different picture. Rachel Craig, research director of the HSE, said that many people probably wrongly thought they were being more active than they are. Walking to the station, for instance, only counts as moderate exercise if you are walking briskly – that means at around 3-4mph. Walking up stairs is undoubtedly good, but does not usually take very long. "As a rule of thumb, it is moderate activity if it makes you out of breath or sweaty," she said. "That indicates you are doing cardiovascular activity. Though that is not to say that walking generally is not a good thing." Housework is also said to count towards moderate activity, but, said Craig, dusting and washing up do not count. Rigorous scrubbing may be physically active enough to register, but what the experts really have in mind is digging the garden, tilling rough ground, mowing large areas with a hand-mower and chopping wood. What adults are really doing is sitting in front of the computer at work or at home, watching television, reading, eating, studying or drawing. This is how most of us occupy around 10 hours a day, the survey shows. Children did better than adults. Among the 7,500 surveyed, half of boys aged two to 10 years old (51%) and a third of girls in the same age group (34%) did an hour's moderate exercise every day. But their activity levels slipped dramatically when they got older – only 7% of boys aged 11-15 and no girls in the study met that target. Obesity may be levelling out, according to the survey, but at a high level. A quarter of adults (24% of men and 25% of women) are obese and a further 42% of men and 32% of women are overweight. [rc] • Full report at: www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/hse08physicalactivity © Guardian News and Media Limited 2009