Exercise and Physical Activity

The term 'physical activity' refers to bodily movement produced by skeletal muscle that results in energy expenditure; it thus includes activities of daily living, as well as leisure activity from sport and exercise. The term 'exercise' refers to planned or structured bodily movements, usually undertaken in leisure time in order to improve fitness (e.g., aerobics), while 'sport' is physical activity usually in structured competitive situations (e.g., football). Physical activity at recommended levels (moderate intensity for 30 min for 5 days each week) is associated with many health benefits; these include lower all-cause mortality rates, fewer cardiovascular events such as myocardial infarction and stroke, and a lower incidence of metabolic disorders including non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and osteoporosis. Levels of activity have been falling in Westernized societies largely because of a decrease in physical activity at work (from increasing mechanization) and increasingly sedentary leisure-time pursuits (such as television viewing). The Allied Dunbar National Fitness Survey of the UK showed that 70% of the population are insufficiently active, and a separate UK government survey showed that 1 in 3 adults could be classified as sedentary, i.e., taking less than half an hour of continuous moderate-intensity physical activity each week (Figure 2). Both cross-sectional data and prospective studies confirm an inverse relationship between physical activity and weight gain. The finding that in many countries such as the UK, average energy intake has fallen over the time that obesity has been increasing, emphasizes the importance of inactivity as a cause of obesity. These secular changes of inactivity are most marked in children who now spend much of their leisure time watching television or in other sedentary pursuits. Health authorities in many countries now

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