About one-third of patients told by doctors to exercise

If there is a magic "pill" in medicine, it is exercise. Working out regularly is associated with a broad spectrum of health improvements, including cardiac, bone, brain and lungs. But a new study shows that only one in three U.S. adults is asked about his or her exercise habits by a physician.

The data, published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, came from the National Health Interview Survey of 2010, which polls more than 21,800 adults. One in three who had seen a doctor in the past year said they had been advised to begin exercise or continue exercising, researchers found. Slightly more women were asked about exercise than men.

While this figure is an increase from the 2000 survey, which found that about 22% of patients were asked about exercise, it's far from public-health goals, which emphasize regular physical activity for almost everyone regardless of age, gender and health condition.

The biggest gains in the exercise  discussion have occurred among adults age 85 and older, who are encouraged to exercise much more today than they were 10 years ago. Adults with diabetes were more likely to be asked about exercise compared with people with heart disease or cancer. And while almost 47% of obese people and 30% of overweight people were told to exercise, only 22.6% of people of healthy weight were asked about exercise.

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