HHS: Get off your duffs, America, and exercise!

Articles
October 20, 2008

HHS: Get off your duffs, America, and exercise!

All the nutritionists in the world could escort shoppers through the supermarket, and for all their smart nutritional suggestions, would be hard-pressed to do much about their fitness. That’s an individual pursuit. Some need more motivation than others—and are willing to pay for it, for example, by renting personal trainers by the hour. Others ride bikes in groups, play recreational sports, or change TV channels without the help of a remote (probably not many of the latter).

All the nutritionists in the world could escort shoppers through the supermarket, and for all their smart nutritional suggestions, would be hard-pressed to do much about their fitness. That’s an individual pursuit. Some need more motivation than others—and are willing to pay for it, for example, by renting personal trainers by the hour. Others ride bikes in groups, play recreational sports, or change TV channels without the help of a remote (probably not many of the latter).

To establish a minimal baseline for fitness-minded Americans, prod the nation to get off its collective duff, and even inspire with a gold standard activity model, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued a comprehensive set of Physical Activity Guidelines.

For boomers who remember, this initiative is remindful of when President John F. Kennedy urged regular exercise and the country sprang into action.  Today, with computers, video games and work responsibilities keeping America dormant, the need for Federal cheerleading is more critical.

Although people are likely distracted by the state of the nation and what they might feel are more pressing matters, let’s consider that exercise, done right, could be just the ticket for re-energizing for personal success, and sustaining the vigor and focus it takes to grow today.

Would it be misguided or preachy for supermarkets to start weaving fitness into their health and wellness themes? SG thinks such efforts could well be appropriate. Certainly, fitter employees could help moderate health insurance costs. And, by constructively helping customers understand the physical benefits they’ll derive (and the science that went into the development of these HHS recommendations), stores may be able to elevate their perception as more than a transactional outlet.

In brief, HHS urges that adults exercise at moderate intensity at least 2.5 hours per week, or at vigorous intensity 1.25 hours per week. Double that and they could derive further health benefits.  Adults should do resistance (muscle-strengthening) exercise at moderate- or high-intensity for all major muscle groups at least two days per week.  By contrast, children and adolescents should exercise moderately or vigorously an hour a day.