If you have seen any news in the last day or two, you may be wondering if I am going to mention the study regarding inactivity and increased risk of disease. Of course I am!
There are actually 5 studies reported in journal The Lancet but the full reports are not readily available at this time. I reviewed the author's summary of the first study and a popular press review of the others.
There are plenty of sources for you to explore as I noticed headlines from CNN, FOX, USA Today, NY Daily Post, The BBC, The Huffington Post and more.
First - what is an adverse health outcome? It is something that you would rather avoid, like a heart attack. There are things we can do or stop doing to reduce our risk of a bad outcome. For instance, smoking increases the risk of almost any disease or disease complication. Driving while under the influence of alcohol increases the risk of an accident. Eating fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of some cancers. Washing your hands can reduce the risk of illness. ETC
We already know that exercise is good for us. We have a National Guideline for Physical Activity that encourages us to get no less than 30 minutes of activity 5 days a week. The same guidelines recommend that we get much much more, up to an hour each day.
But what happens if people do not exercise the minimal amount? The researchers who are published in this week's Lancet know that for heart disease, diabetes, colon and breast cancer, lack of physical activity is one factor that increases the risk. They found that worldwide, the percent of disease that is attributed to (or caused by) inactivity is 6% for heart disease, 7% for diabetes, and 10% each for colon and breast cancer. They also found that not getting enough activity is responsible for 9% of premature deaths (or dying before old age).
They did not study what would happen if a group of people who did not exercise started to exercise. They looked at whole countries. Their goal was to see how many diseases could be avoided if all people met the minimal recommendations. They also looked at the differences in disease numbers or cases when we reduced inactivity worldwide by 10 to 25%.
The study shows that in 2008, 53 million deaths were related to inactivity alone. IF we could reduce inactivity even a little, a million lives a year could be saved. A lot more lives could be saved (because less people would get the diseases I mentioned) if we eliminated inactivity. We could also add a year of life to average life expectancy.
None of this or the other four studies was about losing weight. It was just about moving. I said it before and I'll say it again, "Exercise is the sine qua non of life." It is the essential component - without it, we cannot exist. Just Do It. Everyday.