30 minutes, 5 days a week Exercise regimen still holds up 12 years after it was suggested by USC professor

COLUMBIA -- A simple piece of health advice -- to exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week -- is still a good idea a dozen years after a team of experts first gave it.

So says a report released Wednesday by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association.

It has been 12 years since University of South Carolina professor Russell Pate led a team of experts who published the recommendations in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Extensive research since then has shown the original ideas to be sound.

"The 30-minute guideline is holding up; it has stood the test of time," said Pate, who is on the team -- led by William Haskell of Stanford University -- that put together the new report in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

Frank Lourie takes the recommendations seriously.

The almost 60-year-old Lourie works out five to seven times a week at the Katie and Irwin Kahn Jewish Community Center, doing aerobic exercises on stationary bikes, swimming laps, lifting weights and doing stretches.

Lourie, who runs his family's business Lourie's men's clothing store on Main Street, takes physical activity especially seriously because of a family history of heart disease.

Wednesday's report served not only to reiterate the earlier physical activity guidelines for adults, but to clarify some points and add others.

For example, some people took the call for 30 minutes of exercise accumulated throughout the day to mean that structured sessions of vigorous exercise were not essential. "That was never the intention," Pate said.

The new guidelines incorporate vigorous activity and specify that moderate and vigorous activity complement each other in producing health benefits.

Muscle-strengthening exercises also are included this time around.

"What we have learned is that resistance exercise provides important health benefits that go beyond strength gain," Pate said. "We now know that (it) is important to bone health and provides many of the same benefits that endurance exercise gives."

A related article in the journal highlights the kinds of activity older people should do, such as muscle-strengthening, stretching, flexibility exercises and ones that improve balance.

"I hope that these papers reinforce the public's confidence in the existing guidelines that we've been working hard for over a decade to promote," Pate said.

USC professor Stephen Blair co-authored both papers.

Research on the benefits of physical activity helps experts tweak recommendations from time to time.

Lourie thinks that's a good thing. "It only makes sense that as they gain more and more information medically and physiologically about the human body that they use that knowledge to adjust the standards," he said.

The new report comes as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services begins to develop physical activity guidelines similar to the well-known dietary guidelines.

But many people still discount the importance of physical activity to health, Pate said.

"Even though an aspect of physical activity is fun and games, that doesn't mean we're dealing with something trivial," he said.