For women, battle of bulge just got tougher

Tue Mar 23, 2010 4:17pm EDT
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By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Women need to get at least an hour a day of moderate exercise if they hope to ward off the creep of extra pounds that comes with aging, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

The weekly total of 420 minutes is nearly triple the 150 minutes of moderate daily exercise currently recommended by U.S. health officials and illustrates the challenge American women face in maintaining a healthy weight.

Winning that war will require individuals to make changes in their daily routines -- like walking or biking to work -- but it may also take a shift in policy to make it easier for people in fit exercise into their lives, researchers said.

Two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses, and adding about $150 billion a year to U.S. healthcare costs.

"From a public health perspective, it would be better to prevent the weight gain in the first place," said I-Min Lee of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, whose study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Lee said there is ample research on people who are already overweight, but little on how to prevent weight gain as people grow older.

Current U.S. exercise recommendations differ, with 2008 guidelines recommending 150 minutes of moderate exercise -- brisk walking, gardening, ballroom dancing -- as a way to improve overall health, and a 2002 report by the Institute of Medicine, one of the National Academies of Sciences, recommending an hour a day.

If people exercise vigorously, by running or cycling hard, for instance, less time is needed to get the same benefits.   Continued...

<p>Women go to swim at an indoor pool in Paris, October 30 2009. REUTERS/Charles Platiau</p>