Doctors should evaluate your physical activity as often as they check blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease risk factors, according to an American Heart Association statement.

“Most healthcare providers have not routinely assessed physical activity levels among their patients because they have not had the right tools,” said Scott Strath, Ph.D., lead author of the statement and associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s College of Health Sciences. “Yet, physical inactivity is about as bad for you as smoking.”

A “decision matrix” in the statement will help healthcare providers select the most appropriate way to evaluate their patients’ physical activity, including inexpensive or free options such as questionnaires.

An exercise checkup should cover types, frequency, duration and intensity of physical activity at work, home and during leisure time, the statement said.

Doctors should also counsel patients about how to include more activity in their daily lives, Strath said.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five days a week or more, or at least 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three days a week or more. In addition, the association recommends moderate- to high-intensity muscle strengthening at least two days a week.

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