- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2000

Good news from the American Medical Association's journal. It is not necessary to endure those long, sweaty workouts at the gym in order to stay fit. In fact, if you live 15 minutes distance from the gym, you will get all the exercise you need by simply walking there and back. The study says that 30 minutes a day of normal exercise, such as climbing stairs, mowing the lawn or simply walking is enough to keep your heart and lungs in good shape.

The study observed exercise routines of two groups. One group vigorously exercised, swam, biked and sweated for 20 to 60 minutes, five days a week. The other group simply performed “lifestyle” exercises such as walking for 30 minutes each day. Both groups had similar physical improvements, and though the “lifestyle” people had to exercise three times longer to burn the same amount of calories, they did it with a lot less sweat. Also, there is no need for a membership to rake the yard.

The fact that moderate exercise is just as beneficial as jumping up and down on one of those machines that simulates walking up stairs is great news. You will no longer need to work out on those bicycles that don't move, stair machines that don't take you upstairs or treadmills where you gain no ground. I suppose this could be bad news for all of the health spas and gyms that are charging stiff fees for the privilege of simulating what is available to all of us for nothing.

Another study at the Mayo Clinic suggested that fidgeting can help people stay in shape. I suppose that's why you never see any obese people with nervous tics. Fidgeters are people who are continually in motion, and you never want to sit next to one in the theater or on an airline. They may be fit, but they can drive you up a wall. Some fidgeting types require medication to slow them down or they suffer burnout at an early age. Fidgeting is a high price to pay for a healthy heart and lungs.

The study points out that one in four Americans spend most of their time sitting. We can blame television and computers for that. Try standing up to watch television, and not only will it improve your health, you will also find that most programming isn't worth standing up to watch.

The computer has fastened many of us to the chair. I bought a laptop, and when I put it in my lap, I couldn't see the keys. Let us hope that embarking on a routine of moderate exercise will catch on.

January is a big month for people to enroll in some kind of heavy exercise routine, and by February, 50 percent have quit and decided that there must be an easier way. Now, we find out that there is indeed an easier way, and one just as effective. I love scientific studies like this one. So many of the studies result in things that we don't want to hear that it is great to find out that hard work and a great deal of effort is not always necessary to accomplish our goals. I hope some scientific research is looking at an all-you-can-eat diet that tastes good.

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