The critical health risk threatening 95 percent of Americans…

Here’s some more “breaking news” from the American Heart Association:

“Too many Americans are physically inactive or, at best, insufficiently active.”

What, has the AHA been hiding out in a nuclear fallout shelter for the past 30 years while we, as a nation, have been ballooning to supersized proportions? Because that’s the only reasonable explanation for the sweet time they took to make this grossly overdue call to arms.

The actual numbers are across the board. But a recent National Health Interview Survey reported that a mere third of Americans gets the minimum half-hour of moderate intensity exercise, five days a week.

Meanwhile, the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) reported that fewer than 5 percent of American adults get 30 minutes of moderate intensity of exercise on a weekly basis.

Now admittedly, this information was collected a whole decade ago. But still…a measly half-hour of exercise per week? That’s truly appalling. Even more so, considering how few people spent even that much time breaking a sweat.

So… let’s see if you’re getting enough exercise, shall we?

Current U.S. guidelines suggest a cumulative total of 150 minutes of physical activity per week, if it’s moderate intensity. If your activity is vigorous in intensity, you can cut that duration in half, to 75 minutes per week.

Now, that’s all well and good. But here’s where the AHA dropped the medicine ball, so to speak. According to their recent specifications, moderate-intensity physical activity adds up to between 3.0 and 5.9 METs. Vigorous activity is a workload of six METs or more.

If you’re wondering what all of that means, well I’m not surprised. Mostly because referring to “metabolic equivalents” (METs) is the most scientific way to describe what’s happening to your heart when you exercise.

And that, my friends, is where your AHA donation dollars went. They wasted time trying to quantify exercise in units like METs and kilocalories. All in the name of giving doctors a bunch of tools to measure their patients’ physical activity.

Things like questionnaires, exercise logs, heart-rate monitoring, pedometers, and accelerometers. Blah, blah, blah.

I’m sorry, but this stuff is completely useless to the average person. And I dare say it’s not much more help to a bunch of couch potato doctors who couldn’t prescribe a practical exercise program to save their lives.

So allow me to explain this in terms you can actually put to good use.

Typical moderate intensity exercise would be walking at a pace of about 3 mph. If you’ve ever used a treadmill, you’d recognize that as pretty slow. It’s a pace that would get you knocked down on a New York City sidewalk.

A talk test is a good way to gauge your intensity if you’re unsure. Moderate intensity means you can carry on a conversation. But you’re breathing hard enough that you couldn’t sing a song. In other words, it’s a workout that most everyone can manage.

Which brings me back to the statement at hand. Allow me to share a few relevant quotes with you:

  • “Physical activity is fundamental to health”
  • “It’s a ‘best buy’ for public health”
  • “A lack of physical activity is as bad for you as smoking”

Now, where have you heard any of this before? Oh, let me see…how about from me. And for decades now, at that.

Although truth be told, I’m starting to hate the word “exercise” almost as much as I hate the word “diet.” Those two words have such negative connotations in the American vernacular. Enough that I feel that some people tune out the minute they come up.

Is that part of the problem? I couldn’t tell you. But I stopped using the word “diet” a long time ago. Maybe now it’s time to retire the word exercise, too.

“Guide to the assessment of physical activity: clinical and research applications: a scientific statement from the american heart association.” Circulation. 2013 Nov 12;128(20):2259-79.
AHA Recommends Regularly Assessing Exercise Habits. Medscape. Oct 17, 2013.