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Daily exercise? Who knew?

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Despite 14 years of public education campaigns, only one-third of Americans know how much exercise they ought to get each day, and fewer than half meet the goal, a new study has found.

The lack of awareness is greatest among men, the unemployed and people born in the U.S., the researchers said. Their finding came from an analysis of data from 2,381 people who took part in the 2005 Health Information National Trends Survey.

Since then, the federal government has changed its recommendations. Today, adults are urged to get 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise. The standard used in the study was 30 minutes a day.

One reason why efforts to spread the message about physical activity are having limited success is the “highly generalized, saturating effect of media in the current environment,” the authors wrote. “Through varied sources, many are bombarded with multiple physical activity and general health promotion ‘recommendations’ that may be challenging to differentiate.”

A report on the study is in the October issue of “Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.”

Since 1995, the U.S. government and national organizations have used radio, TV, print publications and the Internet to make Americans aware they should be getting at least moderate physical activity each day.

If more people followed the recommendations, it could help reduce rates of chronic health problems, said the study’s lead author, Gary Bennett, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University.

“Physical activity is important for protecting against a large number of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, some cancer, diabetes, even some cognitive disorders,” Bennett said in a Duke news release. “So the physical activity recommendations are extremely important to help increase awareness among the American population about the amount of physical activity that is necessary to reduce the risk of developing these diseases,” he added.

“We’ve seen a lot of discussion about prevention in health-care reform debates over the last few months, and it’s becoming clear that increasing physical activity among Americans may, in the long run, reduce some of the major costs that burden our health-care system,” Bennett said.

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