Not Exercising Could Be as Bad as Smoking and Diabetes

Grey Nike Sneakers on White Floorboards

 

A study has revealed that having a sedentary lifestyle is one of the worst choices you can make for your health and wellbeing.  In fact, not exercising could be more harmful than smoking or diabetes.

It’s a pretty bold statement.

Even people who don’t work out will be aware of the associated benefits of regular exercise.

The NHS, for example, says that regular exercise can reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and diabetes and can ‘lower your risk of early death by 30%’.  

Of course, for some people, there are aesthetic benefits to exercise, too, including weight maintenance or muscle toning, and one thing that’s becoming more apparent is the mental benefits to exercise which the NHS explains as improvements in mood, self-esteem and sleep quality.

We’re probably not telling you anything that you don’t already know.

We’re probably not telling you anything that you don’t already know.  After all the health and fitness industry is worth $80 billion globally.

What’s surprising about this latest research isn’t so much what they found but to the extent to which the results are true: that exercise is such a big contributing factor to life expectancy even surprised the researchers carrying out the study.

The comparison to smoking, for example, highlights just how dangerous and harmful a lack of exercise can be to a person, and what’s really unsettling is how much of a problem it is in modern western society: a sedentary lifestyle is killing us.  Think about the make-up of your average day: how often do you spend sitting at a desk or at a computer? Maybe you hit the gym regularly - great! - but what about those who don’t?  Take a straw poll of your friends and family and you’ll probably find that you know more people living sedentary lives than not.

480,000 people die each year in the United States as a result of smoking.  How many people are dying because they’re not physically active enough?

After decades of demonising cigarettes, it could now be the turn of physical inactivity.

Man in blue shirt smoking cigarette

 

What Did the Study Say?

Researchers followed more than 122,000 people between 1991 and late 2014.

Individual fitness levels were recorded with researchers then tracking participants using medical records and social security numbers in order to follow mortality rates. They found that cardiovascular exercise was a major factor in the number of deaths occurring during that period. So stark was the data that the researchers recommended that health care professionals should encourage patients to achieve and maintain high levels of fitness.

Gizmodo reports that by the close of 2017, around 13,500 people had died and that the fitter a person was the less likely they were to die early.  What’s surprising about the results is how stark the numbers are. This isn’t anecdotal evidence and the figures are clear.

We’ve all got an invisible clock counting down above our heads and we already know that diet can play a role in life expectancy, but until now the link between physical activity and a longer life-span hadn’t been so clearly expressed over such a large data area.  

Sitting down for long periods of time has been linked with increased risk of stroke, heart attack and diabetes.  In fact, it’s been associated with early death for some decades. The NHS goes on the say that the link between sitting down and early death had been noted as early as in the 1950s when it was found that bus drivers were twice as likely to suffer from a heart attack as bus conductors.

Dr. Wael Jaber, the senior author of the study, told CNN that: "Being unfit on a treadmill or in an exercise stress test has a worse prognosis, as far as death, than being hypertensive, being diabetic or being a current smoker...being unfit should be considered as strong of a risk factor as hypertension, diabetes and smoking -- if not stronger than all of them." He went on to say, "It should be treated almost as a disease that has a prescription, which is called exercise,"

Uh-oh.

Maybe make sure that your gym membership doesn’t lapse in the next few months, yeah?

Both the NHS and the American Heart Association recommend that people aim for either 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.

Nowhere near those numbers?  

You’re not alone as an estimated quarter of adults globally don’t get enough exercise and therefore are at risk of early death.  If your numbers don’t add up, there’s no need to be embarrassed or ashamed as there’s no time like the present to start exercising.  You just need to find a workout you enjoy and get started. There’s more good news, too, researchers found there was no age limit to the benefits of regular exercise.

It’s never too late (or early) to start.

It’s good news for those on the other end of the scale, too, as the research suggested there’s no limit to the benefits of exercise no matter how hard you’re working out. Contrary to what’s been believed in the past it seems that ultra-exercisers are not at any additional risk of dying.

We’ve established that exercise is vital to health and well being but it’s important to enjoy working out.  If you decide to use the gym or if you exercise outdoors, then you can add music to your routine. Research suggests that music can improve our performance.

If you’re wearing headphones, then we’d definitely recommend adding a pair of sweat-proof covers to the cushions.  Sweat is corrosive and most on and over-ear headphones aren’t built to withstand moisture damage.

Ear Hugs come in a wide range of colourful designs but are all fully-reversible to black, too.  

 

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