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CHICAGO (Reuters) - Healthy middle-aged women in America will be hard pressed to get in the full hour of moderate exercise it will take to avoid gaining weight as they age, and it may be too challenging for some.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday found that middle-aged 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.
"Time is a four-letter word," said Eva Lazarra, 48, a pharmacist at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois, who was taking a break from work to lift weights at the facility's fitness center.
"In a realistic world of a working mom with a family, it can be difficult. I've done my best," said Lazarra. "I have done marathons. I have done triathlons. Unfortunately, we have to start looking at prevention, and that being part of our daily life."
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are already waging a war on childhood obesity. It may take a similar push in adults to help them avoid the health consequences of obesity such as heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.
Already, two-thirds of U.S. adults and nearly one in three children are overweight or obese -- a condition that increases their risk for diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses.
The United States spends nearly $150 billion a year on obesity and related complications -- twice what it cost in 1998 and more than every cancer cost put together.
Many experts, including the independent and influential Institute of Medicine, have said it will take policy changes at all levels of government to help Americans exercise more -- by creating bicycle paths, reducing crime in rough neighborhoods and building more public transport.
Dr. Mary Tillema, 42, a neonatologist at the medical center, said an hour a day of moderate exercise will be tough. "I think that's a lot to ask of the typical person. If I don't watch what I eat, I gain, even though I try to consistently exercise."
Tillema works out three to four days a week, with a routine that includes 35 minutes of cardiovascular exercise and about a half hour of weight training.
"I'd like to think that I can get away with less, but I can't because I see the weight start to creep up and I don't feel as good. But I certainly don't get an hour a day," she said.
Sheila Anderson, 50, of Berwyn, Illinois, works out at the fitness center three to four times a week, doing 45 minutes of cardiovascular training and a couple of hours a week of weight training.
"Does it strike me as too much?" she said of the finding. "Maybe. It sure is hard to fit in an hour each day. I could not come to the gym seven days a week," she said.
Editing by Maggie Fox