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Surgeon Says: Physical Activity in General

November 02, 1998|CANDACE A. WEDLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Doctor's orders: Think "physical activity" instead of "workout" or "exercise." That's coming from the nation's family doctor. Dr. David Satcher, 57, was confirmed as surgeon general in February. He had been the director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta since 1993.

"We used 'physical activity' because we don't want to imply that it's a regimen like an exercise program," said Satcher about the 1996 surgeon general's report. "We talked about physical activity and moderate physical activity--things like walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling, aerobic dancing, even gardening," he said during a phone interview from his D.C. office.

Satcher and his wife, Nola, who have four adult children, live in Bethesda, Md.

Question: What are your "activities"?

Answer: My physical activity program consists of about three miles a day of a combination of walking and jogging. I get up at 5:30 in the morning. I'm usually out there by 6, and I walk for about 10 minutes, I run for about 15 or 20 minutes, and then I cool down by walking another 10 minutes. I do that about five days a week.

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Q: Anything else?

A: Yeah, I play tennis but not as often as I'd like. And gardening is the other thing even though I have not gotten back to gardening since I've been here.

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Q: Don't you find that's relaxing?

A: Exactly, and that's the point I try to make to people about physical activity. It's not exercise in the sense of working out. It's something that you come to enjoy.

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Q: Do you diet?

A: No. I think over the years I have gravitated toward a diet that includes much more fruits and vegetables. And that's something, as you know, that we push here, but in my own home we eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and love them. But we don't eat them just because they're good for you. We eat them because we enjoy them.

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Q: What do you usually have for breakfast?

A: I have orange juice every morning before I go out to jog--the mixture of walking and running is called jogging. And then I come back and I have oatmeal with raisins and cut-up fresh fruit as a rule. Maybe two or three times a week I'll have an egg. And then lunch includes some kind of meat--today it was chicken and rice and vegetables, and I have fruit.

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Q: Now, are you fussy about how the chicken is prepared?

A: Not fussy but certainly I don't like it fried. I grew up eating fried chicken, but I very seldom eat fried chicken now. It's usually grilled or baked.

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Q: You don't miss fried chicken?

A: Yeah, but if I miss it that means that maybe once a month I will have something like that.

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Q: What do you do about dinner?

A: I eat dinner at home so it's the only major meal a day, and my wife is very health-conscious when it comes to eating. We always start with salad, and then we have vegetables and meat and starch. So we eat a lot of fish, a lot of chicken. Maybe if we eat beef it's one day a week. We just try to eat the right things on a regular basis.

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Q: Do you ever eat dessert?

A: Yeah, just about every day we have fruit after dinner.

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Q: Are you pretty good about knocking the water back?

A: Yeah, I drink a lot of water. I don't even count it anymore.

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Q: Eating out as much as you have to do, how do you handle the food situation

A: Well, I don't eat a lot at receptions. I love the fruit at receptions and I don't have a lot of competition. I don't eat a lot of the hors d'oeuvres and things. I eat a lot of dinners at meetings and things, but a lot of times I'm speaking--almost every time I go to a dinner, I'm the speaker. So I don't eat a lot before I speak.

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Q: Do you find that when people are seated next to you or at least within your range of vision, they're more careful about what they eat?

A: Well they talk a lot. "Oh, I'm next to the surgeon general. I can't do this." I'm not sure what it means. . . .

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Q: How tall are you, by the way, and how much do you weigh?

A: I'm 6 feet, and my weight is between 185 and 190.

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Q: Anything else you wanted to say?

A: Alcohol--we recommend that people use in great moderation. I drink occasionally white wine or sometimes red wine, but I don't drink a lot. Probably one glass a day at the most. And obviously we encourage people not to smoke.

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Q: Anything else?

A: People need to find things that they enjoy, and the other thing I want to say is that good health habits can become just that--habits. A lot of people think it's just hard work, but the fact of the matter is, when it becomes a part of your life you enjoy it and you miss it when you don't do it.

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Guest Workout runs Mondays in Health.

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