Sitting Still Can Be Deadly: Exercise More to Outrun the Couch Potato Curse!

Exercise is my addiction, too, and while many of my friends believe I exercise too much, millions of people worldwide are dying from not enough exercise. A study published in The Lancet reports that an estimated 14,520 people die every day due to insufficient exercise. Some of these individuals, of course, never partake in any physical activity at all. The study states that “worldwide, we (estimate) that physical inactivity causes 6-10% of the major non-communicable diseases of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast, and colon cancers.”

This unhealthy behavior also causes 9% of premature mortality, with the epidemic of inactivity contributing to more than 5.3 of the 57 million deaths in 2008. In other words, we are allowing ourselves to live sedentary lifestyles that lead to death. Although North America and Europe are leading the way in inactive lifestyles, the rest of the world is rapidly catching up.

The Joys of Exercise

Maybe I’m oversensitive to the benefits of exercise, but I’ve always loved working out until I’m drenched in sweat and drained of energy. The advantages of getting my muscles moving are immediate – my spirits lift, stress evaporates, and I feel rejuvenated. Even eating afterwards is more enjoyable when I’ve worked up an appetite.

Regular physical activity significantly reduces the risk of:

  • Early death from any cause
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Depression
  • Colon cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Falling and breaking bones

Additionally, exercise can improve:

  • Muscle strength
  • Brain function
  • Bone health
  • Ability to do everyday tasks
  • Weight loss
  • Fitness of your cardiovascular system

If exercise were a drug, it would be a miracle drug prescribed to everyone. Unfortunately, many people neglect physical activity, leading experts to call global inactivity a pandemic contributing to one in 10 premature deaths.

How Much Exercise is Enough?

So, how much exercise should you be doing to maintain a healthy lifestyle? The researchers in The Lancet recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Activities that can contribute to this goal include walking around the block, gardening, walking upstairs instead of using elevators, biking, swimming, or anything else that gets you moving.

Research on people’s reluctance to exercise suggests that as countries grow wealthier, their citizens become more sedentary. However, the studies also indicate that if we could reduce inactivity by only 10%, we could save around 10,000 lives every week.

According to The Lancet’s figures, at least 30% of individuals aged 15 and above (approximately 1.5 billion people) lack sufficient movement. Younger generations may be even more sedentary than their parents since studies on adolescent activity reveal that 80% of teenagers between 13 and 15 years old are not getting enough exercise.

Benefits as We Age

One of the most significant benefits of exercise is its ability to counteract the effects of aging. As Dr. I-Min Lee of Harvard Medical School emphasizes, “everything that gets worse when we get older gets better when we exercise.” No matter your age, incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can greatly impact your physical and mental well-being.