Heart Association launches online nutrition tracker

American Heart AssociationDALLAS, Texas (AP) -- With an eye on Americans who spend too much time sitting behind computer screens and not enough time getting exercise, the American Heart Association is pitching fitness with an online nutrition tracker.

The group hopes its new free Start! program will inspire Americans to follow through on those resolutions to get in shape. With its online fitness and nutrition tracker, participants can enter what they eat each day and how much exercise they get, then get a summary of calories in and calories out.

"I think we all know that as a nation, we are not active enough," said Dr. Raymond J. Gibbons, president of the heart association, which announced its campaign Monday.

About 195 million people, 65 percent of Americans, are overweight, according to government figures. Being overweight has serious consequences, increasing the risk for diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, stroke and some forms of cancer.

As far as exercise, the program has a particular focus on walking, "the easiest activity for most people," Gibbons said.

The heart association estimates that adults gain two hours of life expectancy for each hour of regular exercise. Gibbons said that depends somewhat on how vigorously a person exercises, but any activity is beneficial.

The heart association hopes to get corporations involved by recognizing some as "fit-friendly" if they meet certain criteria such as providing walking routes, promoting walking programs and allowing staff to wear tennis shoes on "sneaker days."

"We encourage individuals as they sign up to encourage their corporation to do the same," said Alex Barbieri, a heart association spokesman.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press