I know that this sounds like the crazed rant of a wheat-grass swilling fitness-nazi, but hear me out…
In a recent paper published in the Annals of Clinical and Laboratory Science, Dr. Joseph Knight crunched all of the available scientific data and came to the conclusion that “inactivity significantly increases the risk of numerous diseases/disorders, including several forms of cancer, diabetes, hypertension, coronary and cerebrovascular diseases, overweight/obesity, and all-cause mortality, among others. Unless there is a reversal of this sedentary lifestyle, the incidence of these diseases/disorders will increase, life expectancy will decrease, and medical costs will continue to rise”.
- This means that you probably won’t get to retire the South Pacific to live out your golden years, bounce your grand-kids on your knee or grow old and grey with your spouse.
- And before you die, you will spend years and years dealing with all of the fun stuff associated with cancer, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and morbid obesity.
Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?
But maybe you think this is just speculation…maybe you’re a “show me the facts” kind of person.
Here are some Facts
- In 2004, the CDC concluded that 300,000 to 400,000 Americans died from poor diet and physical inactivity – that 16% of all deaths.
- In 2002, the World Health Organization estimated that there are 2,000,000 deaths w0rldwide each year from physical inactivity.
If that isn’t scary enough, we can look at the studies which show that “long-lived species are more efficient in cellular maintenance than short lived species, suggesting that enhancement of the body’s maintenance systems may slow the aging process. Since aging results from the accumulation of cellular damage, interventions in poor lifestyles may prevent damage, promote repair, and thereby increase life expectancy. In fact, about two-thirds of the major causes of death are, to a significant degree, lifestyle related.” And as noted by Mokdad et al, the major “actual causes of death” in the year 2000 were physical inactivity and poor nutrition.
- Tobacco (435 000 deaths; 18.1% of total US deaths)
- Poor diet and physical inactivity (400 000 deaths; 16.6%)
- Alcohol consumption (85 000 deaths; 3.5%).
Other actual causes of death were microbial agents (75 000), toxic agents (55 000), motor vehicle crashes (43 000), incidents involving firearms (29 000), sexual behaviors (20 000), and illicit use of drugs (17 000).
What does physical inactivity actually do to your body?
According to Dr. Walter Bortz, “our cultural sedentariness, recently acquired, lies at the base of much human ill-being. Physical inactivity predictably leads to deterioration of many body functions. A number of these effects coexist so frequently in our society that they merit inclusion in a specific syndrome, the disuse syndrome. The identifying characteristics of the syndrome are cardiovascular vulnerability, obesity, musculoskeletal fragility, depression and premature aging’.
And since this way-too-easily reproducible syndrome affects the young as well as the old, we can not blame “normal aging” for the onset of the diseases related to the Disuse Syndrome.
And as we know, health care doesn’t come cheap. What do all of these lifestyle diseases cost us?
In 1987, “the direct and indirect costs of sedentary lifestyle to chronic health conditions were reported to be in excess of $150 billion (cost in 2000 dollars for 1987 incidences) (Pratt, Macera & Wang, 2000). As health care costs are $1.3 trillion/year in the US, a rough approximation is that physical inactivity accounts for approximately 15% of the US health care budget.
But it doesn’t have to be this way
The NIH reported in 2009 that…
- Exercise improves quality of life
- Quality of life improvements are dose dependent on volume of exercise. Small amount of exercise = small improvement to Q of L. Large amount of exercise = large improvement to Q of L.
- Q of L improvements were independent to weight loss.
And if that wasn’t enough proof for you, we can look at another pile of research which shows that while quality of life, physical balance, flexibility, mental health, etc naturally decline over the years, being physically active significantly slows down these “natural” signs of aging.
In fact, it has been shown that seniors can significantly reverse the severity of these conditions after taking up an exercise routine.
Thanks to advances in technology, modern humans no longer have to live the physically punishing lives of our ancestors.
- This is good – it allows us to develop our minds, live longer, live better, etc..
- Unfortunately, it has also made us sick, fat and lazy.
Your takeaway from this research?
- Exercise or die.
- Annals of Clinical and Laboratory Science
- Sedentary Death Syndrome
- Actual Causes of Death in the United States – 2000
- Letter – Actual Causes of Death in the United States – 2000
- Disuse Syndrome
- Costs and Consequences of Sedentary Living
- Exercise Dose and Quality of Life
- Physical Activity and Aging
- Minimum amount of physical activity for reduced mortality and extended life expectancy
- Waging war on modern chronic diseases: primary prevention through exercise biology
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