Doctors are singing "Let's Get Physical"

Exercise recommended by physicians to one in three American adults

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Among the most common pieces of advice offered by doctors to their patients: start running, biking, walking, swimming, playing tennis or whatever it takes to get in regular exercise.

One third of all U.S. adults have been advised to begin or to continue exercising by their doctors, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control.

"Exercise at least 30 minutes every day."

Information from the National Health Data Interview Survey in 2010 revealed that 32 percent of all American adults were told to engage in some form of regular physical activity .

That percentage is up ten points - 40 percent - from 2000. The advice is being doled out across all age groups from 18 to those over 85, though the majority hearing it are the middle-aged and baby boomers, from age 45 to 74.

"This is music to my ears," said Eve Pearson, a registered dietitian and certified specialist in sports dietetics who previously, worked as a personal trainer certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

"We've known for many years that exercise can actually help some individuals get off of medications completely," Pearson said. "For example, if someone is newly diagnosed with pre-diabetes or hyperlipidemia, just adding exercise can sometimes prolong the point at which that individual would be on the medication for life."

By a small margin, women tend to hear the recommendation more often than men, and the increase from 2000 to 2010 held true across all ethnicities.

Nearly twice as many people over age 85 were told to exercise in 2010 compared to 2000, when just 15 percent received the advice.

Exercising is more than a prescription for weight management. Studies noted in the CDC report point out that benefits include reducing dependence on medication, reducing chronic health conditions, decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression, helping elderly adults maintain independence and improving quality of life.

Among those receiving the advice are adults with high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but the lion's share of the increase went to overweight or obese adults.

While only 35 percent of obese adults and 22 percent of overweight adults were told to exercise in 2000, the numbers in 2010 were 47 percent of obese adults and 31 percent of overweight adults.

More than half of all adults with diabetes (56 percent) are hearing the recommendation to get physical activity into their daily routine.

The report also revealed that a doctor's recommendation to exercise does influence a patient's decision to engage in physical activity.

"Trends over the past 10 years suggest that the medical community is increasing its efforts to recommend participation in exercise and other physical activity that research has shown to be associated with substantial health benefits," the authors write.

"Still, the prevalence of receiving this advice remains well below one-half of U.S. adults and varies substantially across population subgroups."

The report was published February 7 online by the Centers for Disease Control as a National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 13, 2012
Last Updated:
February 14, 2012