* Physical activity called the "wonder drug" by CDC director
* Only 48 percent of Americans said to exercise enough
* U.S. South still lags the nation, but some improvement
By David Beasley
ATLANTA, Aug 7 (Reuters) - More American adults are walking
regularly but less than half of them exercise enough to improve
their health, according to a federal study released on Tuesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, based
on a telephone survey from 2010, found that 62 percent of adults
walk 10 minutes or more a week, up from 55.7 percent in 2005.
However, only 48 percent of adults exercise enough to
improve their health, which was up from 42.1 percent in 2005,
the CDC said.
The agency recommends at least 150 minutes per week of
aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, which can lower the
risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression and
some forms of cancer.
"Physical activity is the wonder drug," CDC director Dr.
Thomas R. Frieden told reporters. "It makes you healthier and
happier. More Americans are making a great first step in getting
more physical activity."
According to the CDC study, which analyzed survey responses
from 23,129 adults, 15 million more Americans are walking at
least 10 minutes per week than was indicated in the 2005 study.
Despite the increase in walkers, the average amount of time
adults spent walking dropped from 15 minutes a day in 2005 to 13
minutes in 2010, the CDC said.
The West had the highest percentage of walkers, with 67.5
percent saying they walked at least 10 minutes a week, compared
to 56.8 percent in the South which had the lowest percentage
However, the South had the most improvement in the nation
over 2005, Frieden said.
"People in the South who have traditionally had higher rates
of obesity and higher rates of heart disease and stroke actually
had the highest percentage increase in proportion of people who
walk, up 8 percentage points," the CDC director said.
Walking is attractive for exercise because it requires no
special skills or equipment and can be done alone or in groups,
indoors or outdoors, the CDC said.
It recommends adding more walking trails and street lights
to encourage walking, along with speed bumps and other
techniques to slow traffic. The CDC also encourages agreements
between local governments and schools to allow community members
to use tracks after school hours.
Employers should also encourage workers to walk during
breaks, Frieden said.
(Editing By Tom Brown and Eric Walsh)
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