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Heart Group Urges Daily Physical Exercise - 2002-09-23

The World Heart Federation warns, physical inactivity doubles the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In the lead-up to World Heart Day September 29, the organization is urging people to do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise every day.

The World Heart Federation says one billion people in the world - one person in six - are overweight or obese. It warns that obesity can very quickly overtake tobacco smoking as the leading cause of heart disease and stroke. The federation's chief executive, Janet Voute, says new studies show that putting on weight and taking it easy could be a health hazard.

"I think - it is a shocking fact, actually - that a lack of exercise may well be as dangerous to the heart as smoking a packet of cigarettes a day,." said Ms. Voute. And this was a conclusion reached by the U.S. Surgeon General on a report on the impact of sedentary lifestyle on mortality. It is a fact that more and more people have to know and internalize and, therefore, adapt the changes in their lifestyle required."

Studies show lack of exercise increases the risk of hypertension by one-third, and type two diabetes by half. Both are major risk factors of cardiovascular disease. The World Heart Federation says 65-85 percent of the world's population does not get enough exercise, and this is leading to spiraling health costs. For instance, data from the United States show medical costs associated with inactivity and obesity have increased to almost 10 percent of national health spending.

The World Heart Federation says obesity is not just a rich person's problem. It also afflicts low and middle income sectors, especially in cities, where people tend to lead a sedentary life. Ms. Voute says people do not have to become super athletes to maintain a healthy heart. She says 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day will help people keep down their weight.

"If that is in your nature, than please feel free to do two hours of marathon running or heavy exercise," said Ms. Voute. "But indeed, if you are going from zero, you can start by doing 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise a day. Take a good walk, walk up the stairs, move around more, garden, dance, do something you enjoy, but begin to integrate it into your everyday life."

The World Heart Federation says inactivity is especially a problem for women, who on average exercise less than men. The federation is particularly concerned about increasing obesity among children. It says too many school systems have done away with their physical education programs. It says these programs should be brought back, and children should be encouraged to take more exercise and to eat less junk food.