Debate brewing over doctors documenting exercise regimens

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PHOENIX  -- A key to your health or an invasion of privacy? That's the debate brewing over a recommendation requiring doctors to document how much time you spend working out each week.

Often listed at the top of your medical chart, your four vital signs are the first thing your doctor sees. But what if your exercise regimen was considered your fifth vital sign?

Now there is a movement to make that happen.

Dr. David Carfagno, owner of Scottsdale Sports Medicine says, "Unlike blood pressure, cholesterol level, it's something they can actually work on."

Carfagno considers exercise a fifth vital sign for decades as research shows inactivity can be linked to chronic diseases.

"I think this is just one reflection of the accountability factor that patients are asked to do more," Dr. Carfagno said.

Kaiser Permanente, a nonprofit health insurance group, came up with the concept which would require doctors to record how many days a week and how long you exercise. The recommendation, 150 minutes per week for adults.

But not everyone is on board.

"It's a touchy subject about, can the insurance companies or the government or other private citizens have access to my information," said 31-year-old Bryan Heller.

Heller said there is a privacy issue to take into account.

"There could be lots of people who really find that information very useful, marketers for different health food styles or exercise equipment to different areas of the country," he explained.

"How much more information, big brother-esque, do you want to get with people's lives?" Dr. Carfagno asked.

While Dr. Carfagno supports the idea, he too is concerned about how insurance companies will use the information.

"They don't want to get to the point where they just don't feel like they're going to be overwatched and penalized and lose some of their insurance coverage which is a big issue right now as we know," he said.

As for Heller, he's still on the fence about how he feels.

"It ends up either being wonderful that we can share that much or quite frightening that somebody can know that much," he said.