Living With

No Time for Exercise

David Mendosa Health Guide September 02, 2008
  • The problem with the review of a new study showing that we have to exercise an hour a day to keep the weight off is that almost no one has time for it.

    "People, let’s be realistic," writes one reader of the review in the Los Angeles Times. "One person in one hundred may be able to exercise one hour each day. What about the rest of us?"

    So true. Technology has improved the lives of almost all Americans and other fortunate people in the developed world so much that the only muscles we need any more are those in our eyes, our ears, and our fingers. And our mouth muscles, of course.

    To pay for this wonderful technology almost all of us have to go to work. Our average commute is 24.4 minutes each way, which averages about half an hour per day if we have a five-day work week. But we are so lucky that we can do it sitting down in our wonderful automobiles or buses or subway cars!


    Once we arrive at our workplace, the lucky ones stay seated for the 5.3 hours of the average work day. It's considerably less than the 8-hour day that we usually think of once we factor in weekends, holidays, and sick and annual vacation time.

    We lead such busy lives that few of us have enough time to sleep either. But most experts say that we need 8 hours for what my dad called "my beauty-rest."

    Then, with practice many of us learn to eat as quickly as possible. So factor in another 2 hours per day for feeding our faces.

    In addition we all need another hour or so for personal grooming, like showering and getting dressed for work and undressed for bed or sex (if we have time for it).

    We simply have to make time to enjoy the fruits of our technology! The average American does not fail in this effort.

    For example, we watch television an average of 4.5 hours per day, according to Nielsen Media Research, the leading provider of television audience measurement.

    Where would we be without the Internet and video games? Typically we use these wonderful new tools 45 minutes per day.

    Newspapers, magazines, and books are, of course, old media and old technology. But some of us still know how to read them. Factor in an hour and 15 minutes here.

    I could also count talking on our cellphones and listening to the radio and our iPods. But I won't, because we are so good at multitasking.

    OK. That adds up to just about 23 hours per day. That does give us time for an hour of daily exercise. But it sure is close!

    We lead such technologically advanced lives where our labor-saving devices have replaced most of our muscles. So discussing the new study showing that people need to exercise an hour a day to take the weight off and keep it off is probably irrelevant for most folks. Because of that I'll keep this section short.

    In a nutshell,
    John M. Jakicic, PhD, Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center, University of Pittsburgh, and three co-authors reported their research in the July 28, 2008, issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Medical Association. An abstract of the study, "Effect of Exercise on 24-Month Weight Loss Maintenance in Overweight Women," is online. While the report doesn't mention if any of the participants had diabetes, the staff of the Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center  at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, assisted in the study.

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    After working with 201 overweight or obese women for a little more than two years, the authors reached a clear conclusion. People who were able to sustain a loss
    of 10 percent or more of their initial body weight after 24 months were different. They reported that those who lost at least 10 percent of the initial body weight exercised an average of 338.2 minutes per week (table 4 of the full-text of the report). That's 48 minutes per day.

    Aren't you glad that it's less than an hour a day? Maybe you can squeeze it in after all.