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Double Your Exercise Time U.S. Health Panel Says

from The Cincinnati Post

Acknowledging that Americans are getting fatter, an independent panel of top physicians and nutritionists is recommending doubling the amount of exercise previously thought necessary to stay healthy, while setting less rigid dietary guidelines.

The groundbreaking report, prepared for U.S. government health and nutrition agencies by the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board, urges people to eat more "healthy" fats and allows for significantly more added sugars in the diet, a recommendation that some critics say could discourage consumers from getting all the daily vitamins and nutrients they need.

The recommendations, last updated by the board in 1989, could lead to significant changes in food labeling, analysts said, and ultimately affect the USDA's closely followed list of recommended daily food requirements.

"I think it's going to be difficult for USDA not to change the food pyramid (based on these recommendations)," said Dr. Walter Willett, nutrition and epidemiologist professor at Harvard University School of Public Health. "The top part of the pyramid is going to get bigger."

The report emphasized physical activity over the restriction of calories — recommending an hour of moderate exercise every day such as brisk walking. That's double the amount recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General and considerably more than what the majority of Americans accomplish.

Currently, more than 60 percent of Americans are not physically active on a regular basis, and 25 percent are inactive.

"We recognize that lifestyles of many in the United States might make this goal seem difficult to achieve," said panel chair Joanne Lupton, a professor of nutrition at Texas A&M University.

The report gives details of how many calories a person should eat based on weight and activity but avoided discussing what kinds of foods to eat. Instead, the report set guidelines to accommodate a broad range of diets from low-fat Asian to Mediterranean fare, which is higher in good fats.

Specifically, the report said that in the average person's diet, protein should comprise 10 percent to 35 percent, carbohydrates should make up 45 percent to 65 percent, and fat should fall between 20 percent to 35 percent of calories consumed.

These findings allow for people to consume a larger amount of "good" or monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat than previously recommended.

But perhaps the most drastic changes in people's lifestyle will have to come not from eating different kinds of food, but in their activity levels.

The report calls for sedentary people, such as those that work at an office, to get an hour of moderately intense activity such as walking at four miles an hour. It's OK to meet the goal by breaking it up into smaller segments.

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