Janet Peterson, associate professor of health and human performance, questioned during a faculty lecture April 20 whether the Surgeon General’s recommendation of 150 minutes of exercise per week is enough to sustain a healthy weight.
During her lecture titled “The Science Behind the Health Benefits of Exercise,” Peterson explained that eating the same amount of calories that the body burns through normal activity and exercise is the best method for maintaining a healthy weight.
“You can’t look at the body separately,” she said regarding the combination of fitness and diet.
Peterson focused on the health benefits of exercise, citing that 83 percent of health care spending goes to chronic diseases that could have been caused or worsened by a lack of activity.
To change this, Peterson recommended that exercise should be prescribed by doctors in lieu of medications.
“I am very supportive of the idea of exercise as medication,” sophomore Cailtin Rhodes said. “Patients listen to their doctors and do what they say even when they don’t understand, so if their doctors say exercise, they’ll have an excuse to.”
Sophomore Kelcey Van Orman agreed.
“I liked how she talked about the cause of so many problems being obesity,” she said. “The cause of obesity is inactivity and diet, so exercise would solve a lot of problems. People don’t really talk about it that much but it’s a really big issue.”
Peterson also emphasized that while the study of exercise science has brought some definite conclusions about what people need to do to remain healthy, there is a large factor of variability that comes into play regarding what different bodies require.
“Human variability is a big factor in the use of our calories,” she said. “The variability of calories out is very small, but there’s much more variability on calorie intake.”
To end her lecture, Peterson answered the question she had already posed: Are 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week enough to sustain a healthy weight?
The final consensus was that 150 minutes are enough but only if a person has a healthy diet. People who take more calories than needed would need 60-90 minutes of exercise to avoid gaining weight.
Peterson acknowledged that these numbers can be daunting for Americans who have already put on weight, especially because many obese Americans may have never exercised before.
“You need to adjust behavior,” she said, in closing. “If I could, I would get some kind of counseling training so I can help people with nutrition and exercise but also with the mental side.”
Brittany Baker/Staff reporter
Brittany Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.