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January 27, 1999

Benefits of Lifestyle Activity vs Structured Exercise

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, Physical Activity and Health Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga.

JAMA. 1999;281(4):375-376. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-281-4-jed80113

It is now clear that regular physical activity—bodily movement that is produced by the contraction of skeletal muscle and that substantially increases energy expenditure—reduces the risk for coronary heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and several other major chronic diseases and conditions.1 Exercise, as a subset of physical activity,1 is planned, structured, and repetitive bodily movement done to improve or maintain 1 or more components of physical fitness. For many people, the New Year's resolutions to get more exercise have been on target. How to get that exercise or, to use today's favored terminology, physical activity, is the subject of 2 articles in this issue of THE JOURNAL.2,3 Since the term aerobics was first adopted as a popular description for endurance exercise in the 1960s, the health and fitness benefits of 20 or more minutes per day of vigorous exercise such as jogging, swimming, or cycling have been touted.1,4 However, during the past 5 years, there has been a reassessment of the original epidemiologic evidence linking physical activity with health and a growing body of new research demonstrating that lesser quantities and intensities of exercise or physical activity also lead to health benefits.1,5 Publications of the surgeon general, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and American College of Sports Medicine have focused on the important role that moderate-intensity physical activity plays in improving and maintaining good health.1,5,6