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“Lack of Exercise” Can Kill You, Literally

I have a recommendation.  This one is totally non-negotiable!!!  The benefits are simply too life-changing and miraculous.  Here it is.  Physical activity must be a priority in your life every single day.  No ifs, no buts, no maybes.  To ignore this advice is to neglect and abandon your health in the worst way.  In fact, some doctors believe that “lack of exercise” is so harmful to health that it should be treated as a medical condition, just like heart disease or diabetes.  This makes sense.  Lack of physical activity is strongly linked to pretty much every major health problem there is.  If you want to be healthy, you have to be active.  You have to spend less time in your car, less time at your computer and less time in front of the television.  The human body was designed to move!  Every single cell (and I mean every single one, no exceptions!!!) is happier, healthier and more joyful when your body is in motion on a regular basis. 

One Million Benefits and Counting

The National Institute of Aging has said “if exercise were a drug, it would be the most prescribed medicine in the world.”  That’s because the list of benefits that come with it are truly never-ending.  At any age, regular physical activity significantly improves your enjoyment and satisfaction with life.  Two of the most vital organs in your body, your heart and brain, thrive on it. It reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke and protects you from injury should either one occur.  It’s central to the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes.  It enhances sensitivity to insulin (less insulin is required to move sugar out of the blood and into the cells) and lessens the many complications associated with this disease, including an increased risk of death.  It also helps prevent cancer and is good for bones, blood pressure and a strong immune system.  When regularly active you sleep better, look better and definitely feel better.  It buffers you from stress.  Without it, losing weight and especially keeping the weight off, is next to impossible, as is reducing your risk of dangerous belly or abdominal fat.  Lastly, if you want the ultimate anti-aging tool, keeping your body in motion slows down and prevents deterioration that would otherwise occur.

Walk Away The Blues

The World Health Organization estimates that depression will be the second leading cause of incapacitating disease by 2020.  Reducing our risk is important.  Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden reviewed 15 studies to determine the effect of exercise on depression.  They found that exercise had a “significant large overall effect” and that it was particularly successful in people with mild to moderate depression who were motivated enough to get moving.

Physical activity reduces depression risk in a multitude of ways including the release of “feel-good” chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters and endorphins).  It can cut the risk of depression by as much as 50% and is a viable alternative to anti-depressants drugs.  All types of activity have been found to be effective, including aerobic activity, yoga and resistance training.  It also shows great promise in those who are at greatest risk for depression, such as the elderly. 

The Cancer- Activity Connection

The American Institute of Cancer Research says that if you want to significantly reduce your risk of cancer be active every day in any way for at least 30 minutes.  Regular activity is linked to a much lower risk of many types of cancer, including cancers of the breast, colon, prostate and endometrium.  Staying active helps you maintain a healthy body weight.  Excess weight is one of the most significant risk factors for cancer.  It also protects you by keeping hormone levels healthy, your immune system strong and inflammation at bay.  Those who are active during childhood are also less likely to develop cancer down the road.

Physical Activity & The Common Cold 

One of the most significant factors influencing how often you get sick (like catching a cold or flu) and the severity of your symptoms is whether you are physically active on a regular basis.  Regular, moderate activity significantly strengthens your immune system and cuts your risk of illness by as much as 50%.  It boosts the activity of immune cells, including “Natural Killer” cells, which are potent weapons against viruses that lead to infection.

How Active Do You Need To Be?

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends that adults accumulate at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) per week of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity a week in bouts of 10 minutes or more.  Muscle and bone strengthening activities using major muscle groups is also recommended, at least twice a week.  This includes activities such as lifting weights or doing push-ups or sit-ups.  Children and teens are encouraged to get at least an hour of activity daily.  The Canadian guidelines are consistent with other major health organizations around the world, including the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Guidelines for Americans.  The majority of adults and kids today do not meet these guidelines.  For maintenance of a healthy body weight, good research supports getting at least 60 minutes of activity each day.     

Running Not Required

Joan Rivers said “the first time I see a jogger smiling, I’ll consider it.”  I myself have always preferred walking to running, although I definitely walk at a very brisk pace.  The good news is both walking and running appear to provide similar health benefits.  Researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California compared the health of 33,000 runners to almost 16,000 walkers over a period of almost 6 years.  They found that, walking briskly lowered the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running did, as long as the amount of energy expended (calories burned) was the same (the walkers, therefore had to walk longer to burn the same amount of calories).  They also found that the more the runners ran and the more the walkers walked, the greater the health benefits for both.  This is great news.  Walking is the most accessible, prevalent and well-liked method of physical activity.  Just make sure that when you walk, you walk at a fairly brisk pace.  Other research has shown that walking pace is more important to health than walking distance.

I Love Playing Hockey!!!

I shouldn’t even have to say this, because it’s so obvious, but I will.  When it comes to physical activity finding an activity you enjoy and one that fits into your lifestyle is critical.  When I was a new mother I joined a gym that had a daycare.  When my kids got bigger and my work schedule became more demanding having a treadmill and weights in my basement was ideal.  Today, I hike most days in the ravine near my home/office.  It’s convenient and I love being in nature.  Playing hockey in the winter and kayaking in the summer are also favourite pastimes for me.  Dancing anytime (including in my living room on any given day!) is another way I stay active.  Find what works for you and then as Nike says “just do it!”

Everything Counts!

Take the stairs, instead of the escalator.  Rake the leaves, instead of using a leaf blower.  Walk into the store, instead of going through the drive-thru.  Every single time you move your body, your body says thank you!!!  Make movement a part of your life.

Lessons Learned:

Regular physical activity is essential to optimal health and enjoyment of life.  Lack of activity creates disease and shortens lives.  Make every day an active day!  The human body was designed to move. 



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