The study published last week by Lancet estimates that physical inactivity – i.e. sitting – killed 5 – 12 million people prematurely in 2008. Physical inactivity causes as many deaths yearly as smoking, alcoholism and obesity, and it’s the fourth leading cause of death worldwide.
Also, physical inactivity increases the risk of many non-contagious diseases like coronary heart disease, diabetes (type 2), breast and colon cancers. The researchers also estimated that if inactivity was decreased by 10%, over half million lives would be spared. Twenty-five percent decrease would save 1.3 million lives.
Sorry for the boring researcher “speak” above, the (ex-)researcher in me took over and for her it’s of the utmost importance to report research results correctly, rather than engage the readers. It would be just h-o-r-r-i-b-l-e if I made a mistake when/if I draw conclusions from the research. 🙂
Anyway, here are my personal musings about the topic.
We have a pandemic of physical inactivity.
You’ve probably heard about the pandemic of obesity .
We also have a worldwide epidemic of physical inactivity that kills millions of people every year, and the numbers are probably only going to increase, not decrease. Think about all the people in developing countries that still may live a life that is physically active. When they get cars, office jobs and labor-saving devices their physical activity is going to plummet just like ours did.
You may’ve noticed I don’t speak about exercise, I speak of physical activity. That’s because having – for example – 3 hours of vigorous structured exercise per week doesn’t come even close to satisfying our need for physical activity.
The amount of recreational exercise in Western countries may have actually increased, but it just isn’t enough to replace all the physical activity we’ve lost with transportation, labor-saving devices and ict (our newest nemesis).
It takes more effort, planning and money to lead a physically active life than a physically inactive life.
I think it’s ironic. The garden-variety of physical movement I’m talking about is absolutely free, but it’s much easier to be physically inactive rather than active.
For example, I have a bike but I don’t really use it much thse days, simply because I want to maximize the amount of walking I do every day. I run errands the old-fashioned way – I walk to and from the local mall or take a metro train if I have to get to the city center to do something (thank god I don’t own a car). The point is that I had to make a conscious decision to not use my bike even though it would be so handy.
I also try to take walks just for the sake of physical activity (I use a pedometer to track my daily steps).
I still find it pretty hard to collect enough steps. I have a small apartment and I’m a lazy homemaker, which means that I lose many opportunities to be physically active. I have no garden to tend to. The only pets I have are the dust bunnies that I let freely graze under my bed (now if I chased them more often….)
Also, I spend hours on my computer every day writing, reading blogs and using social media (oops, I forgot I watch television too). I would love to own a treadmill desk, but I can’t really afford one at the moment. If I had one, I could be physically active whilst reading blogs and using social media.
At least I’m lucky enough to live in a country where it’s safe (and unpolluted) enough to walk outdoors even at a late hour. That is what I did yesterday after 10 pm when I got fed up with all the sitting and went for a brisk walk.
My question: Have you made arrangements in your life / daily habits to increase your physical activity (I don’t mean increasing structured exercise)? There are many ways to do that and I’m curious to hear bout yours!
Leave your comment below.