Exercise check-ups by doctors recommended

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Almost every visit to the doctor includes a check of your blood pressure and the doctor listening to your heart and lungs.  Now the American Heart Association recommends that doctors also ask about your exercise habits.

Exercise is good for the heart, lungs, brain, joints -- really every part of your body.  Yet does your doctor ask you about your exercise habits?

"They haven't approach me about it when I wasn't pregnant," said Angela Reed who was walking in Loose Park.

Dr. Rene Bollier of St. Joseph Medical Center does routinely quiz patients.  Pam Shernuk says it's made a weighty difference.  She's lost 35 pounds since 2009.

"And a lot of that I credit to walking and exercising with his encouragement," said Shernuk.

A new scientific statement from the American Heart Association says doctors should evaluate physical activity as routinely as they check blood pressure.  Also, they should counsel patients on how to get more exercise.  An author of the statement says after all, inactivity is about as bad as smoking.  The statement says doctors may want to use questionnaires asking about types, frequency, duration and intensity of activity at work, home and leisure time.

Dr. Bollier says that may be a bit much.

"It's very important, but you can do that with words rather than focusing on a piece of paper," said the family practice physician.

Dr. Bollier also says it's important to set a good example.

"If they look at me and realize I'm taking care of my body and exercising...they're more likely to follow through," said Dr. Bollier.

Rhonda Vega, a walker in Loose Park, thinks the exercise checkup is a good idea.

"I think it does hold you more accountable to it.  I think that it keeps it at the forefront of your mind," said Vega.

It may be at the forefront when your doctor gives you a prescription for exercise which is some of the best and cheapest medicine.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate activity such as brisk walking at least five days a week, or 20 minutes of  vigorous activity such as running at least three days a week.  AHA also recommends muscle strengthening at least two days a week.

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