Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

American Adults' Knowledge of Exercise Recommendations

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

American Adults' Knowledge of Exercise Recommendations

Article excerpt

Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, and some cancers. Approximately 950,000 Americans die annually from cardiovascular diseases. The purpose of this study was to determine whether American adults know which traditional and lifestyle physical activities affect health and how they should be physically active to achieve a health benefit. Secondary purposes were to determine whether this knowledge is a function of gender, ethnicity, education, or age and if those who are sufficiently active for a health benefit possess different knowledge levels than those not sufficiently active for a health benefit. Items based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/American College of Sports Medicine principles included knowledge of exercise guidelines and traditional and lifestyle physical activities. This information was obtained from 20 questions that were part of a national random telephone survey of 2,002 American households in the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Respondents were most aware of traditional physical activities (M = 94%) that provide a health benefit and less aware of specific exercise guidelines (M = 68%) and lifestyle physical activities (M = 71%) that can result in a health benefit. Knowledge was not related to physical activity behavior sufficient for a health benefit and only slightly related to ethnicity, education, and age. These data suggest that physical activity knowledge alone is not sufficient to elicit a behavior; however, it provides educators with an understanding of the public's physical activity knowledge that could be helpful in developing health promotion and physical activity interventions.

Key words: health, health promotion, intervention, physical activity

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Physical activity (PA) has been clearly identified as a means of maintaining an individual's physical health and well being. In the past 50 years, much epidemiological study has been conducted on PA, and active lifestyles have been associated with improved quality of life and health (Barnes & Schoenborn, 2003; Blair, 1993; Blair et al., 1989; Morris, Heady, Raffle, Roberts, & Parks, 1953; Pate et al., 1995; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 1996). Over time, various professional associations have made recommendations on the frequency, intensity, duration, and types of PA necessary to derive a health benefit. In 1990, the "ACSM [recognized] that there are potential health benefits of regular exercise performed more frequently and for a longer duration, but at lower intensities than prescribed in this position statement" (American College of Sports Medicine, 1990, p. 266). The American Heart Association (Fletcher et al., 1992) developed a statement on exercise and health in 1992.

In 1993, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) PA recommendations emphasized the necessity for all adults to "accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity over the course of most days of the week" (CDC/ACSM, 1993, p. 7). The recommendations emphasized that adults who could incorporate sufficient PA into their daily routines would receive health benefits. The summary CDC/ACSM statement included the following as acceptable lifestyle PAs that could contribute to an adult's 30-min total: "walking up stairs (instead of taking the elevator), gardening, raking leaves, dancing, and walking part or all of the way to or from work" (CDC/ACSM, 1993, p. 7). The statement encouraged all adults, especially those who were sedentary, to change their lifestyle behaviors by attempting to progressively "increase their participation in moderate or vigorous physical activity" (CDC/ACSM, 1993). The exercise guidelines reflected change from traditional "exercise" types of physical activities to "lifestyle-based" physical activities. …

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