How Dangerous is Inactivity?


We know that many benefits come from being active. Going out for a bike ride or a run feels good, tones muscles, and boosts energy. When we sit on the couch instead of taking that bike ride, we know we’re not getting the benefits of activity, but we don’t necessarily think that we’re doing our bodies harm. A recent, comprehensive study by scientists at the University of Cambridge suggests that we should more seriously about inactivity levels.

The scientists collected data from 334,000 men and women over the course of 12 years. They examined height, weight, waist circumference and self-reported levels of physical activity. They examined the data to assess risks for premature death. The data revealed that people who were sedentary had nearly twice the risk of premature death of people who were obese.

When it came to reducing the risk of premature death, the scientists found, that having moderate physical activity – as opposed to none at all – was the key. They estimated that engaging in activity that burns just 90-110 calories a day, such as a brisk walk, can reduce the risk of premature death by 16-30%. The researchers also estimate that eliminating physical inactivity in the population would reduce premature deaths twice as much as the elimination of obesity.

Dr. David Katz, the director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center explained that the study’s message was “clear and simple”:

[F]or any given body weight, going from inactive to active can substantially reduce the risk of premature death.

With the rise of the sedentary office life, people are less active than ever. On average, Americans are inactive for 21 hours a day. Studies such as this Cambridge one shed light on the personal and public health risks presented by our sedentary culture. Fortunately, they also show that small changes can make a big difference.

You can fight back against our sitting culture with small tricks, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and larger fixes, such as adding a standing or walking desk option to your office. No one will benefit from a future of working from the seated position, but everyone will benefit from a future of working with choices to stand, walk, or sit when needed.

To learn more about the benefits of activity, click here.

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