The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendsthat we get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week or 20 minutes of vigorous activity three days a week. However, collectively across the world we are falling short of this target. Much of this inactivity can be contributed to changes in technology that have people relying on motorized transport to get where they need to go and sedentary behaviors at home and on the job. What many people may not know is that excessive inactivity can have a grave impact on our health. Inactivity is linked to a higher risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and can lead to obesity.
Inactivity was first stated as a leading cause of heart disease and diabetes by the American Heart Association in 1992 and the WHO (World Health Organization) lists it as the fourth major risk factor for developing chronic diseases. Studies have shown that prolonged time sitting is strongly associated with an increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as obesity, abnormal glucose metabolism, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease risk, and breast and colon cancer. It is estimated that a sedentary lifestyle contributes to 6 to 10 percent of these diseases. Sedentary individuals also have a 20 to 30 percent increased risk of death than those who engage in the recommended amount of physical activity.
The benefits that can be achieved from regular physical activity are abundant. It protects us against many chronic diseases such as obesity; it improves glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity, blood lipid profiles, cholesterol levels and the health of blood vessels, and lowers blood pressure. It also improves mental health and strengthens your cardiorespiratory fitness, bones and muscles. Current evidence suggests that the benefits of regular physical activity on our health and well-being surpass the effectiveness of any medical treatment.
There are simple ways to increase your amount of physical activity even if your job requires you to sit all day. The easiest way to encourage yourself to move more is to wear a pedometer and set a goal of how many steps you want to reach by the end of the day. Push yourself to be more active by increasing that number every few days. Another option would be to set a timer for every hour to get and move. Encourage your coworkers to be more active. Start a walking club if your workplace doesn’t already have one. If your work allows it, stand while working or request a standing or walking desk from your employer.
Given that the repercussions of inactivity to our health are severe there is a dire need for more effective messages to the public about the direct impact that the lack of physical activity has our health. We have proof that our lifestyles are putting us in danger. But for some, simply hearing the message won’t be enough. What are some ways that you can increase your own physical activity levels? How do you encourage your peers or your patients to increase their amount of physical activity? Please share your thoughts and help start this important conversation!