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Boomers more obese than other generations

WASHINGTON -- Baby boomers say their biggest health fear is cancer. Given their waistlines, heart disease and diabetes should be atop that list, too.

Boomers are more obese than other generations, a new poll finds, setting them up for unhealthy senior years.

And for all the talk of "60 is the new 50" and active aging, even those who aren't obese need to do more to stay fit, according to The Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll.

Most baby boomers say they get some aerobic exercise, the kind that revs up your heart rate, at least once a week. But most adults are supposed to get 2 1/2 hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity -- things like a brisk walk, a dance class, pushing a lawn mower.

Only about a quarter of boomers polled report working up a sweat four or five times a week, what the average person needs to reach that goal.

Worse, 37 percent never do any of the strength training so crucial to fighting the muscle loss that comes with aging.

Walking is their most frequent form of exercise. The good news: Walk enough and the benefits add up.

"I have more energy, and my knees don't hurt anymore," says Maggie Sanders, 61, of Abbeville, S.C. She has lost 15 pounds by walking four miles, three times a week, over the past few months, and eating better.

More boomers need to heed that feel-good benefit. Based on calculation of body mass index from self-reported height and weight, roughly a third of the baby boomers polled are obese, compared with about a quarter of both older and younger responders.

Only half of the obese boomers say they are exercising regularly.

An additional 36 percent of boomers are overweight, though not obese.

The nation has been bracing for a surge in Medicare costs as the 77 million baby boomers, the postwar generation born from 1946 to 1964, begin turning 65.

Obesity, with its extra risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis, will further fuel those bills.

"They're going to be expensive if they don't get their act together," says Jeff Levi of the nonprofit Trust for America's Health. He points to a study that found Medicare pays 34 percent more on an obese senior than on one who's a healthy weight.

The AP-LifeGoesStrong.com poll was conducted from June 3-12 by Knowledge Networks of Menlo Park, Calif., and involved online interviews with 1,416 adults, including 1,078 baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964. The margin of sampling error for results from the full sample is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points; for the boomers, it is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

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