Imagine two co-workers: one slim, the type who can seem to eat anything without gaining a pound — and therefore does not feel the need to exercise; the other one overweight, but who works out regularly. In spite of your latter colleague’s efforts, he has found it very difficult to lose weight. Which one is at greater risk for health problems down the road?
The answer is not so clear-cut, since both obesity and physical inactivity have been linked to chronic diseases: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, etc. If you were forced to choose, though, it appears more and more that keeping physically active is the more important variable for decreasing health risks.
- Australian researchers (1) recently found that being sedentary accounts for about half the risk for cardiovascular disease in middle-age women — more than obesity, high blood pressure, or even smoking.
- Recent studies in BMJ (the British Medical Journal) found that for older adults, light daily physical activity decreased the disability associated with knee arthritis (2), and poor physical fitness nearly quadrupled the risk for all-cause mortality (death by any cause) (3).
- While many studies have focused on light-to-moderate exercise, a new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology looked at something a bit higher impact — namely running — and found that running, even as little as 5-10 minutes per day, decreased cardiovascular and all-cause mortality risk by 30-50%. (4)
- Author Nilofer Merchant has compiled the research, and calls sitting the “new smoking” — the big public health scourge that needs to be addressed in the 21st century.
What can you do today to incorporate more physical activity?
- Park a little further from your destination
- Walk the dog a little further each morning
- Jog in place during each commercial break on TV
Our bodies are designed for exercise throughout life — so keep it moving!
1. Br J Sports Med. Published online May 8, 2014.
2. Relation of physical activity time to incident disability in community dwelling adults with or at risk of knee arthritis: prospective cohort study. BMJ 2014;348:g2472
3. Physical capability in mid-life and survival over 13 years of follow-up: British birth cohort study. BMJ 2014;348:g2219
4. Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;64(5):472-481. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2014.04.058