Not Exercising May Be Worse Than Smoking
If you’re looking for motivation to get moving, consider this: research shows that inactivity is lined to more than 5 million deaths each year, which is similar to the death toll taken by smoking.11 Data also suggests that at least twice as many deaths occur due to a lack of exercise than due to obesity. This is really astounding, considering one in five US deaths are associated with obesity. Study author Ulf Ekelund from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge told TIME:12
“This is a simple message: just a small amount of physical activity each day could have substantial health benefits for people who are physically inactive.”
As stated by Dr. Timothy Church, director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, exercise indeed affects your entire body—from head to toe—in beneficial ways.13
This includes changes in your:
•Muscles, which use glucose and ATP for contraction and movement. Tiny tears in your muscles make them grow bigger and stronger as they heal. Gaining more muscle through resistance exercises has many benefits, from losing excess fat to maintaining healthy bone mass and preventing age-related muscle loss as you age. The intensity of your resistance training can achieve a number of beneficial changes on the molecular, enzymatic, hormonal, and chemical level in your body.
•Lungs. As your muscles call for more oxygen, your breathing rate increases. The higher your VO2 max—your maximum capacity of oxygen use—the fitter you are.
•Heart. Your heart rate increases with physical activity to supply more oxygenated blood to your muscles. The fitter you are, the more efficiently your heart can do this, allowing you to work out longer and harder. Your blood pressure will also decrease as a result of new blood vessels forming.
•Brain. The increased blood flow also benefits your brain, allowing it to almost immediately function better. Exercising regularly also promotes the growth of new brain cells, boosting your capacity for memory and learning. A number of neurotransmitters are also triggered, such as endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and GABA. Some of these are well-known for their role in mood control. Exercise, in fact, is one of the most effective prevention and treatment strategies for depression.
•Joints and Bones. Exercise can place as much as five or six times more than your body weight on them. Weight-bearing exercise is one of the most effective remedies against osteoporosis, as your bones are very porous and soft, and as you get older your bones can easily become less dense and hence, more brittle — especially if you are inactive.
The simple take-home message is this: if you are currently living a sedentary lifestyle, the mere act of incorporating some high-intensity activity two or three days a week, along with regular walking, can significantly reduce your mortality rate.