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  • Heart Association Calls for Physical Activity Assessments to be Considered a Vital Health Measure

    An American Heart Association (AHA) scientific statement released in October 2013 urges clinicians and researchers to include physical activity assessments as a vital patient health measure equal to other cardiovascular risk factors like obesity, smoking, diabetes, and hypertension.

    The statement, released online this month and scheduled for print publication in November, points out the well-established connection between physical activity and overall health. Despite this connection, most adults in the United States fail to achieve the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity, though the degree to which these adults are falling short tends to vary among studies.

    According to the AHA statement, this variation is part of what begs the need for "consistent assessment of physical activity in research and clinical settings to improve risk factor identification, minimize physical inactivity, and further advance our understanding of health-related impact." But the heart of the matter, so to speak, is the fact that a clear risk factor and "vital health measure" are often overlooked.

    The statement provides an overview of assessment approaches that range from questionnaires and logs to more objective techniques such as indirect calorimetry, heart rate monitoring, and accelerometer use. The authors also include a "decision matrix guide" to the selection of a physical activity monitoring instrument that offers options related to what needs to be described, burden on the patient, personnel available, and other factors. The idea behind the matrix and other information in the statement is "to provide a guide to allow professionals to make a goal-specific selection of a meaningful physical activity method."

    The importance of physical activity has been a central focus of APTA and is the foundation of the APTA "Fit After 50" campaign. The campaign recently reached millions of Americans through APTA's publication of the "Top 10 Fittest Baby Boomer Cities in America," in partnership with the Huffington Post. APTA has long supported the promotion of physical activity and the value of physical fitness, and currently has representatives on the practice committee of Exercise is Medicine and the board of the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance.

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