Contact: Cindy Karra -- 202-974-5009

Rx for America: Increased Activity and Modest Weight Loss Will Improve Your Health

Washington, DC; June 28, 1995 -- As part of his personal campaign to Shape Up America!, Dr. C. Everett Koop, the former U.S. Surgeon General, has some new advice for people battling a sedentary lifestyle: increasing physical activity -- even a small amount -- is the best way to maintain one's weight and to stay healthy.

And, for the estimated 58 million American adults who are now classified as overweight, Dr. Koop's prescription is not to try to lose all the extra weight at once. Echoing the newest recommendations of medical experts, this national public health authority says that the most successful approach is to lose a modest amount of weight and then stay at this new weight for several months before attempting a second round of weight reduction.

"Weight loss is not an all-or-nothing proposition," said Dr. Koop. "Losing a few pounds and keeping them off is a very significant step in the right direction and should be considered an important measure of success."

Recognizing that many overweight Americans set unrealistic goals for themselves when they decide to lose weight, Dr. Koop has published a new brochure providing the

latest thinking of medical authorities on successful weight reduction strategies. Called On Your Way To Fitness, this one-source guide provides a new definition of achievable weight loss and stresses the importance of physical activity in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

Answering the question of how much weight to lose, Dr. Koop's new brochure summarizes the recommendations of medical experts that a modest weight loss of up to 5 percent, depending upon a person's height and frame, is a "reasonable" goal and one that can be maintained over time. For those whose weight reduction goals are greater than 5 percent, the new thinking calls for losing weight in a series of stages with some breathing room in between. This means that instead of staying on a weight reduction

program indefinitely, the more successful approach is to start by losing a modest amount of weight (10 to 20 pounds) and staying at that new weight level for several months before attempting a second round of weight reduction.

Explains Barbara Moore, Ph.D., Executive Director of Shape Up America!, "Few people realize that losing weight is easy. What's hard is keeping it off." For this reason, experts recommend practicing weight maintenance between periods of weight reduction and here, physical activity is the key. "Activity is the part of the equation that can really make the long-term difference," Dr. Moore added.

Based on new studies which show people who exercise regularly after a diet are significantly more likely to maintain their new weight level, the booklet encourages Americans to think about physical activity in a new manner: as a way to get the body moving. According to physical activity experts, any bodily movement that results in expending energy -- walking, taking the stairs, vacuuming, gardening, etc. -- counts in terms of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. The key to success is to accumulate at least 30 minutes of additional physical activity daily, even if this results from several short periods of activity throughout the day (for example three periods of 10 minutes).

"Exercise is cumulative; everything extra you do adds up at the end of the day. So take the stairs, stand, don't sit, walk, don't ride and get off the couch to change the channel manually," said Dr. Koop.

On Your Way to Fitness provides these new tips about "Shaping Up":

The health benefits linked to even a relatively small weight loss include a drop in systolic blood pressure and an increase in the level of the "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and a lower amount of the "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood -- all reducing the risks associated with hypertension and coronary heart disease. In addition, even a modest weight loss in people with Type II diabetes improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, often restoring blood glucose and insulin levels to normal values.