Main Page: http://www.pednet.org/articles.html
You often hear the advice, "Be sure to get permission from your doctor before you begin an exercise program." This is good advice for older persons and those with health problems, especially if they are planning a vigorous activity such as running. But how often do you hear, "Talk to your doctor before becoming sedentary"?
If you plan on being sedentary this spring, here are some hazards to your health you should be aware of:
1. You double your risk of getting diabetes. Physical activity helps prevent insulin resistance, the underlying cause of adult onset diabetes. One study showed that for every 2 hours a person watched TV daily (a dangerous sedentary pursuit), their risk of diabetes increased 14%.
2. You increase your risk of cancer. Sedentary people are 30-40% more likely to develop colon cancer. The risk of breast cancer and pancreatic cancer increases as well. One study showed a 40% decrease in cancer mortality in high-fit persons compared to low-fit persons.
3. It may turn your brain to Jell-O. Not really, but the evidence is fairly clear that regular physical activity helps prevent cognitive decline and dementia. One study in older persons showed that those who walked regularly, gardened, went jogging, etc. were 50% less likely to develop dementia 5 years later compared to sedentary persons.
4. A sedentary lifestyle increases your risk of a heart attack. It's no surprise that couch potatoes have the highest risk of a heart attack. In the Nurses' Health Study, women who walked 3 hours or more per week (half an hour daily) had only half as many heart attacks as those who didn't have a regular walking program. Exercise strengthens the heart and keeps it in good health.
5. You increase your risk of stroke. Data from the Aerobic Research Center showed that active men dropped their risk of stroke by two-thirds. Active women in the Nurses' Health Study dropped their risk of stroke by 50%.
6. Lack of physical activity increases muscle loss. You either use it or lose it! Inactivity is the best way to lose muscle mass and eventually adequate strength to function properly. The best way to stay out of the nursing home is to get regular exercise, including strength training.
7. It weakens your bones. Bones, just like muscles, require regular exercise to maintain their mineral content and strength. Every year we get older (past about age 25-30), the bones grow a little weaker. This process is much faster in inactive persons. Weak bones are responsible for 1.5 million fractures a year. Weight bearing activities and weight lifting are the best exercises for bone health.
8. You are more likely to become depressed. It's true; inactive people get depressed more often than those who are physically active. Physical activity is a good mood elevator. Staying fit is good for the brain as well as the biceps!
9. You are more likely to gain excess weight! One study showed that an hour of walking daily cut the risk of obesity by 24%. In our current society, if you don't exercise, you are likely to go to pot! Nearly two-thirds of the population is now considered overweight, which leads to a host of other health problems.
10. Your immune system is depressed. People who get regular physical activity have the best functioning immune system. It's our immune system that combats disease and illnesses such as the flu and colds. People who over-do and get exhausted can also decrease their immunity, but regular, moderate exercise is a good health booster.
If you are still considering being sedentary this year, be sure to make an appointment with your physician right away. You are embarking on a dangerous journey and you will need medical clearance before you begin. Ask your doctor if they think it is safe for you! If it isn't, you could consider getting a pedometer and start stepping your way toward health. Gradually work up to 8,000 or more steps a day and you may get a whole new outlook on life.
Reference: The Cost of Inactivity. Nutrition Action Health Letters. Dec. 2005.