Frank Salvatore
Health and Lifestyle

The Importance of Avoiding Inactivity

January 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

In our modern sedentary society, people do not realize that their lack of activity can actually negatively impact their health. This is regardless of if one chooses to exercise. Sitting for long periods of time can reduce longevity and lead to chronic diseases. Many studies have proved this to be true, regardless of one’s exercise habits.

Chronic Diseases and Inactivity

Physical inactivity has a great negative impact on one’s health, raising the risk of poor health in general by 114%. It also increases the risk of specific diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, by 82%, and depression by 150%. This brings the mortality rate of chronic sitting to be similar to that of smokers. Also similar to smokers, chronic sitting can increase one’s chances of lung cancer by over 50%.

However, it is easy to make the change to increase your movement throughout the day. While more studies are uncovering the dangers of inactivity, books have also been published, educating the public on this widespread issue. This is especially important for people who work sedentary jobs to know, since they may be sitting for well over half of their waking hours.

Why Sitting is Harmful

Inactivity prevents molecular changes from happening in the body that occur with the simple task of standing up. For example, within 90 seconds of standing, the muscular and cellular systems in the body that process triglycerides, blood sugar, and cholesterol are activated. These benefits are similar to those that come from exercise. Alternatively, sitting for over eight hours each day can almost double one’s risk of type 2 diabetes.

The human body was designed to be in an upright, standing position, and engage in activity. Choosing to sit rather than stand like your body wants to do for normal functioning, it impairs necessary molecular events that promote optimal functioning. This may in turn lead to disease. While rest is very important, the majority of one’s life should not be spent in a sedentary state.

Excessive sitting not only slows down metabolism, it also turns off the natural fueling systems in the body. This creates an imbalance in blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Sitting with poor posture is also harmful for your body, including the back, arms, neck, and wrists, which may lead to many chronic pains. As a general rule, you should get up and take a short walk at least once each hour.

Biological Importance of Movement

Studies have shown that exercise in mice helps maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, which lets the animals maintain their natural activity patterns. In contrast, if the animals remained sedentary, the activity of their neurons was more erratic. Exercise seems to help the body properly judge when it should be moving as well as when it should rest.

Inactivity Associated with Diabetes, Heart Disease and Cancer

These are the most common diseases in the U.S., and are all very much influenced by the level of physical activity one gets. Having diabetes by itself raises one’s risk of other chronic diseases, so by reducing the risk of diabetes, you reduce the risk of other chronic diseases.

Cardiovascular disease is responsible for 38% of deaths worldwide, which in large part is due to inactivity. Additionally, when a child becomes exposed to sugary and processed foods early in life, they have greater chances of becoming obese and developing diabetes.

An Active Lifestyle May Fight Against Cancer

Physical activity is a large part of the treatment and prevention of cancer. Exercise decreases insulin resistance, which in turn fights cancer. With low blood sugar levels in your body, cancer cells are not able to grow and spread as easily than they are with a high blood sugar level.

Physical activity also improves circulation, which delivers more oxygen to the tissues and circulates immune cells throughout the body. Studies have shown that physically active adults reduce their chances by about one third for developing colon cancer, in comparison with adults who are inactive. Active women may also have a decreased risk of breast cancer by up to 30%.

This pattern of risk reduction carries over for middle aged men by cutting their risk of lung cancer by 55%, and bowel cancer by 44%. Animals studies have also shown that physical activity can reduce the risk of liver cancer.

Exercise and Neurological Health

Exercise can protect neurological function. Research shows that exercise can help neurologically in the following ways:

  • Benefits brain function by increasing blood flow
  • Helps new brain cells grow
  • Helps preserve gray and white brain matter
  • Releases neurotransmitters
  • Reduces the formation of plaque

Regular Movement Is Vital to Your Health

With an average of 10 hours or more among Americans sitting every day, and the research that shows that you cannot offset this amount of inactivity with just one hour of exercise each day, it is clear that people require almost constant movement for optimal health. This can even be offset by standing rather than sitting, but try to walk as much as possible.

Many people are opting for desks that allow them to stand while they work, or even walk on a treadmill while on their computer to boost their activity throughout the day. With the popularity of fitness trackers and smartphones, people can track their activity to make sure they are getting the recommended amount, and aim for even going over their goals.

While one hour of exercise each day can not undo a day of sitting, that does not mean that exercise is not important. Almost any exercise is better than doing none at all, and high-intensity exercises give you the best health benefits for the time. These exercises improve cardiovascular fitness and muscle growth and strength.

Strength training is also important, as is stretching and using a foam roller to relax your muscles. The main goal is to be healthy and incorporate as much physical movement into each day as you can.

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Frank Salvatore