Exercise: Is Inactivity as Deadly as Smoking?
Are Gabby Douglas’ antics keeping you glued to the TV, and inspiring you to dust off your Nike’s? We all aspire to look like the athlete, to perform like the athlete, excel like the athlete, but we often find it hard to work consistently like the athlete. Back in the day, physical exercise was a natural by-product of daily chores such as hunting, building, cleaning and protecting. In fact, formal exercise as a means to health has been around since the Roman Empire in 500AD. As a result, heart disease and other lifestyle illnesses remained somewhat low. But in today’s age of convenience, we barely need to lift a finger to make a cup of coffee. Between planning meetings and taxying Junior to baseball practice, it’s tough to fit in lunges and squats to prevent heart disease and similar illnesses. Inactivity, professionals say, is not just a problem–it’s an epidemic. And some say, in terms of getting heart disease and the like, that it’s as dangerous as smoking.
A recent report, published in Lancet, suggests that as many as one third of adults do not get enough physical exercise. This creates one death in every ten, from diseases associated with an inactive lifestyle, such as diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancers. Co-author of the study, Dr. I-Min Lee, suggests, “We know that being inactive increases your risk of developing many chronic diseases–heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. We should look at [reducing] inactivity as equally important to not smoking.”
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), exercise rates for strengthening muscles (i.e. doing calisthenics or lifting weights) increase after the age of 18, and then slowly decline as we age. In all but one age group (65-74), males outpaced females in terms of amount of time spent exercising. Even in the age group that did the best (18-24), less than half the men got enough physical exercise, and fewer than one third of women did. For your best health, the CDC suggests at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise for adults each week, and 60 minutes of physical exercise per day for children. 2008 data from the CDC note that at least one third of adults don’t get enough physical exercise, and more than 80 percent of teens don’t meet the exercise guidelines set forth by the CDC. In a more recent study, those in higher income brackets fared worse.
Researchers noted a need for shifted thinking. From promoting the benefits of exercise, to highlighting the downfalls of not getting enough, like heart disease. Researchers also suggest that the government help to make exercise safe, convenient and affordable.
Dr. I-Min Lee also discusses the benefits of exercise on aging: “Physical activity benefits almost every physiological system in the body. By moving, we improve our health. Everything that gets worse when you get older, gets better when you’re physically active.”
The next time you take your morning run, remember: you aren’t just shaping your butt – you just might be saving it.