Can No Exercise Be as Bad as Smoking?

Can not exercising be as bad for you as smoking?

A new study suggests it can.

About a third of the world’s population doesn’t get enough exercise, leading to 5 million deaths annually from heart disease and other chronic conditions, according to the study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology and covered by The New York Times. This equates to the number of deaths caused by smoking, researchers said.

“The effects of inactivity are similar,” said Priscilla Tu, D.O., of Carilion Clinic Family Medicine. “Worldwide, physical inactivity causes about 1 in 10 deaths, which is similar to the effects of smoking. 

Many organizations such as the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and American College of Sports Medicine suggest that life expectancy may be increased and the burden of disease decreased by taking part in 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking.

“There is strong evidence to support that physical inactivity increases the risk of many health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes, as well as certain forms of cancer, most notably breast and colon cancer,” said Dr. Tu, who is also the director of osteopathic education for the Virginia Tech Carilion Family Medicine Residency Program. “People who do not exercise tend to die earlier and their quality of life is usually worse than those who exercise.”

Physical inactivity has been named as the fifth-leading cause of disease in western Europe and is a risk factor we can actually do something about, according to Dr. Tu.

“My patients who begin to increase their physical activity tend to have better control of their blood pressure, blood sugars, cholesterol, weight and in general, tend to feel better in their day-to-day lives,” she explained.

Along with the health benefits of aerobic exercise, weight-bearing exercise can help maintain bone health and a healthy weight. This is turn can help prevent the onset and progression of arthritis.
 
“All of these can not only increase the life span but also improve the quality of those increased years,” Dr. Tu added.

I don’t know about you, but the next time I’m tired and consider skipping my walk, I’ll think about this for extra motivation!