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Move it! Record it! A healthy guide to tables, graphs, and charts. (Organize The Findings).

Is your idea of exercise shifting positions while punching the TV remote? Well here's a command from the top: President George W. Bush orders you to exercise! And to help shape up the U.S., the nation's chief has launched the HealthierUS Initiative. His call to action: All American kids should be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day. Teens and adults need to "move it" for at least 30 minutes a day.

According to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, only about one-half of Americans ages 12 to 21 regularly participate in vigorous physical activity. And one-quarter of U.S. youth spend four or more hours each day parked in front of the TV. "Leading a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy," says Dot Richardson, Council vice chairman. And she should know.

Not only an orthopedic surgeon, Richardson captained the gold-medal winning U.S. softball team at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games. "Your body adjusts to the condition you put it under," says Richardson. If you don't use your muscles, they won't be as strong as they can be. And not being active can make your body--and your mind--sluggish.

Want to live a healthier life? Here's a goal to start you off:

Depending on your age, schedule at least 60 or 30 minutes of physical activity every day for a week. And then chart your progress.

Warm Up

"The word `exercise' freaks some people out," says Richardson. So she advises you do a combination of things you enjoy. "If you love swimming, that's awesome. Like to jump rope? Fantastic." But for the deeply rooted couch potato, "walking briskly is a great way to begin."

Whether you simply walk every day, or swim, dance, and play basketball, throughout the week you'll keep track of the number of minutes dedicated to your choice of physical activities. So you'll need a system that lets you organize your daily results accurately and efficiently. This calls for something easy to follow, like a data table (see p. 24).

A data table includes all the variables in your personal health experiment: The independent variable, or characteristic you change on purpose (different types of physical activities) and your dependent variable--the variable that responds when you change the independent variable (exercise time in minutes). Under the independent variable column, list the types of physical activities in your weekly regimen (for example, walking, basketball, and swimming).

Progress Chart

After your week's up, those digits on the data table look deceptively stiff. How to translate one week's activities into something more exciting to look at? A graph is a great way to show off your results, because it lets you instantly spot trends in your data.

To show either the total or average time spent on each activity during the week, a bar graph works best (see p. 24)--you can easily identify each activity.

Let's say there's one activity, walking, you do most consistently. Here's another chart: How does your time spent walking change over time? Your new independent variable: days of the week. A line graph (see p. 24) highlights this type of data best because you can easily illustrate changes in your walking pattern throughout the week. Just connect each point to make a continuous line.

Still Chugging

The first week made you feel so good, you're inspired to continue. And after keeping a fitness regimen for four months, you decide to review the old data tables to record your improvements. Curious, you break out the calculator and determine you spent 40 percent of your exercise time playing basketball, 30 percent walking, 20 percent swimming, 5 percent dancing, and another 5 percent for other activities.

These numbers call for a pie chart (see p. 24). A pie chart is a circle divided into wedge-shape sections. The circle represents 100 percent (here, your total exercise time), and the wedges represent data that are percentages of a whole. So, the wedge representing basketball should take up the biggest chunk, 40 percent of the circle.

Does all this information have you winded? No problem. Just review our easy-to-read, step-by-step, data display guide (next page) for some coaching.

Fit to Win

Besides tables, charts, and graphs, there are other ways to display your progress. No matter which method you use, the most important point is to make sure anyone can easily see and understand your efforts. "Not everyone needs to run a marathon," says Richardson. "Every minute you put in makes a difference. And that's what counts."

PREZ AWARD

President Bush gives his Secret Service agents and staffers personally designed certificates if they can keep pace with him while running. While he can't keep an eye on your exercise habits, you too can get a Presidential certificate if you're motivated to move and record your own activities. The Presidential Sports Award is a fitness program offered by the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Anyone age 6 and older can follow the guidelines to take part in qualifying activities--ranging from walking to bowling, even baton twirling! Upon completion of the exercise program, mail in your fitness log for certification. To learn more about the program, including qualifying standards, check out: www.fitness.gov
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Article Details
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Author:Chiang, Mona
Publication:Science World
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 27, 2002
Words:867
Previous Article:Stretched to the limit? Strained for a knockout science project? Loosen up and make a plan! (Write A Procedure).
Next Article:To make a data table. (Tables, Charts, And Graphs).
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