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According to the 2006 report, Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, "Americans can substantially improve their health and quality of life by including moderate amounts of physical activity in their daily lives." Despite the recognized benefits, as many as 60% of all American adults do not regularly engage in physical activity, whereas 25% are not active at all. Furthermore, several national survey findings indicate that women are much less likely than men to be physically active.

Moderate exercise is more acceptable to larger segments of the population and has been linked to health benefits; thus, it is important to emphasize the frequency and amount of exercise rather than intensity required to improve performance. Individuals who can maintain a regular regimen of longer, more intense activity are likely to derive greater benefit. Conversely, excessive amounts of activity are associated with greater risk of injury, risk of menstrual abnormalities, and bone stress. Physical activity, however, is only one of many behaviors that affect health; nutritional habits also are linked to some of the same benefits and risks as physical activity.

Benefits of Exercise

Exercise has a wide range of benefits. Most of the benefits are preventive; however, the magnitude of specific benefits depends on the type, frequency, intensity, and duration of exercise. Regular aerobic exercise is associated with enhancement of maximum aerobic power and has been demonstrated.

Cardiovascular Benefits

In studies conducted primarily in men, it has been determined that physical activity can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. Conversely, it has been reported that a low fitness level.

Given the hormonal influences and the positive effect of estrogen on cardiovascular disease, it is plausible that in women the benefit of physical activity is observed only after menopause. Studies conducted in physically active women indicate a more favorable cardiovascular risk profile than in sedentary women.

Activity, Physical Training, and Muscle Strength

The basic components of physical fitness--endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility--are used for daily tasks such as crossing the street, lifting groceries, and bending to pick up objects.

Physical Activity and Psychologic Function

Physical activity has a positive effect on mental health. It promotes well-being and self-image and relieves insomnia and depression. Exercise also has been shown to decrease levels of perceived stress and anxiety.

Developing a Program of Exercise

Exercise prescription requires knowledge of the potential capacity for physical activity and the potential risk associated with conducting such activities. Safety considerations should always be a primary concern when