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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Weight Control


Physical Inactivity More Risky than Overweight

Linda S. Rellergert, Nutrition Specialist, East Central Region, University of Missouri Extension


Steven Blair, Director of Research at the Cooper Institute in Dallas, recently came to the University of Missouri to present a talk titled "Physical Inactivity: Our Biggest Public Health Problem." His bottom line message is that being physically inactive is more of a health risk than being overweight. His research shows that thin, but inactive people are more likely to develop chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes and to die than people who are overweight but physically active.

At the Cooper Institute, Dr. Blair and his colleagues have studied more than 75,000 men and women for an average of 6 years. Their dramatic findings have been published in such prestigious journals as the Journal of the American Medical Association, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and the American Journal of Cardiology.

In his research, Dr. Blair has looked at people who he groups as low (as in not) fit, moderately fit, and highly fit. The greatest benefit in terms of health was seen between the low or unfit and the moderately fit groups. Or, as Dr. Blair likes to point out, you don't have to be a marathon runner or anything like it to be moderately fit. He believes the current recommendations to get 30 minutes of activity a day will get most people close to being moderately fit. Blair plans to do additional research on the amount of activity needed by most people to be moderately fit.

Steven Blair's research affirms what many health professionals have been saying about activity - that just 30 minutes a day is all it takes to be healthy. And, it is likely that 30 minutes does not have to be taken all at once. Instead, it is cumulative; so three 10 minute sessions will do as well as 30 minutes taken all at one time.

What can you do to put yourself into that moderately fit category? Here are some suggestions.

  • Take a moment to brainstorm a list of activities you could do for just 10 minutes at a time. Go ahead - do it now! Your list might include things like:
    • walk once around the block;
    • hop on a stationary bicycle;
    • park at the far end of the parking lot and walk around the building before going in;
    • do two sets of eight repetitions of one strengthening exercise
    • walk up and down the stairs in your home or at your place of work
    • get the vacuum cleaner and make one pass along the main traffic areas in your home
    • take the baby out for a ride in the stroller
    • put on your favorite music and be the leader of the band
    • challenge your kids or grandkids to a game of tag
    • during TV commercials, get up and walk around the house


  • Post your list where you are likely to see it several times every day - by the bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator, on the car dashboard.
  • Set up reminders on your computer to take an activity break during your work or computing day.
  • Use a kitchen timer when exercising to help you keep track of ten minutes. That way, you can concentrate on the activity and not the minutes.
  • Keep a spare pair of walking shoes in your car so you'll be ready to take advantage of a few spare minutes to walk.
  • Use some of your lunch or break time for activity. If you like to spend this time catching up on the latest office news, invite others to come along.
  • Develop your own 10-minute workouts that address your fitness weaknesses like poor balance or flabby muscles.






Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009




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