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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Americans and the Issue of Weight

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 24th 2006

It is a well established fact that most Americans are convinced that the best way to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight is to diet and eat low calorie foods. One has only to look at all the television and magazine advertisements devoted to various types of diets and diet fads to know that this is fact. Yet, a study was recently completed at the Oregon National Primate Research Center demonstrating the fact that it is exercise and activity and not calorie intake that most influences weight.

The researchers at the Oregon National Primate Research Center reported that sixty percent of Americans do not engage in the recommended amount of physical activity to maintain good health. In addition, another twenty five percent of adult Americans are considered to be totally inactive. These statistics are not surprising when it is understood that obesity is a major health problem in the United States. The researchers focused on adults with particular concern for exercise middle age Americans. It is during middle age that most people begin to experience a serious gain in weight.

The issues of nutrition, exercise and weight are of great concern for a variety of reasons. First, people who are over weight are more likely to develop cardio vascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Also, they are likely to dies younger than people who are not over weight. At the same time, exercise and good nutrition boost affect mood and perceived stress. For instance, exercise helps relieve depression and stress. Interestingly, those who are both depressed and dealing with a heavy load of stress often do not want to exercise. The lack of exercise then reinforces the existing depression.

The American Heart Association, whose web site can be found at this URL:, offers these suggestions for beginning or increasing exercise at home, work and during leisure time:

At Home:

  • Do housework yourself instead of hiring someone else to do it.
  • Work in the garden or mow the grass. Using a riding mower doesn't count! Rake leaves, prune, dig and pick up trash.
  • Go out for a short walk before breakfast, after dinner or both! Start with 5-10 minutes and work up to 30 minutes.
  • Walk or bike to the corner store instead of driving.
  • When walking, pick up the pace from leisurely to brisk. Choose a hilly route. When watching TV, sit up instead of lying on the sofa. Better yet, spend a few minutes pedaling on your stationary bicycle while watching TV. Throw away your video remote control. Instead of asking someone to bring you a drink, get up off the couch and get it yourself.
  • Stand up while talking on the telephone.
  • Walk the dog.
  • Park farther away at the shopping mall and walk the extra distance. Wear your walking shoes and sneak in an extra lap or two around the mall
  • Stretch to reach items in high places and squat or bend to look at items at floor level.
  • Keep exercise equipment repaired and use it!

At the Office:

  • Brainstorm project ideas with a co-worker while taking a walk.
  • Stand while talking on the telephone.
  • Walk down the hall to speak with someone rather than using the telephone.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or get off a few floors early and take the stairs the rest of the way.
  • Walk while waiting for the plane at the airport.
  • Stay at hotels with fitness centers or swimming pools and use them while on business trips.
  • Take along a jump rope in your suitcase when you travel. Jump and do calisthenics in your hotel room.
  • Participate in or start a recreation league at your company.
  • Form a sports team to raise money for charity events.
  • Join a fitness center or Y near your job. Work out before or after work to avoid rush-hour traffic, or drop by for a noon workout.
  • Schedule exercise time on your business calendar and treat it as any other important appointment.
  • Get off the bus a few blocks early and walk the rest of the way to work or home.
  • Walk around your building for a break during the work day or during lunch.

At Play:

  • Plan family outings and vacations that include physical activity (hiking, backpacking, swimming, etc.)
  • See the sights in new cities by walking, jogging or bicycling.
  • Make a date with a friend to enjoy your favorite physical activities. Do them regularly.
  • Play your favorite music while exercising, something that motivates you.
  • Dance with someone or by yourself. Take dancing lessons. Hit the dance floor on fast numbers instead of slow ones.
  • Join a recreational club that emphasizes physical activity.
  • At the beach, sit and watch the waves instead of lying flat. Better yet, get up and walk, run or fly a kite.
  • When golfing, walk instead of using a cart.
  • Play singles tennis or racquetball instead of doubles.
  • At a picnic, join in on badminton instead of croquet.
  • At the lake, rent a rowboat instead of a canoe.

The web site for the American Heart Association is:

Special Note: It is important to consult your physician before starting an exercise program, especially if you suspect health problems.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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