Don’t be surprised (or insulted) if the next prescription your doctor hands you is for nothing but an exercise regimen. Globally, 20% of early deaths are preventable with moderate exercise. And for the first time last year, sitting killed 5.3 million people worldwide, more than smoking. Inactivity is now considered as a full-on pandemic by health officials. Many U.S. doctors are pushing to make a “lack of exercise” a mainstream medical diagnosis.
U.S. adults end up sitting for an average of 8-10 hours every day. This makes the American lifestyle one of the most sedentary in the world. The global and national lifestyle becomes more sedentary every year, and the number of sedentary jobs has increased 83% since 1950. Think about it in terms of the traveling salesman — sales jobs used to take place out in the field, making office visits to potential clients, but now most interactions take place virtually, largely behind a desk and computer monitor. After long commutes and hours at our desks, we can hardly blame ourselves for plopping down on the couch right when we get home.
So What Does This Mean?
The sedentary lifestyle has its consequences. People who do not meet minimum requirements for activity and exercise are at increased risk for colon cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and strokes — by up to 60%. Those diseases can not only cause deterioration of the body and mind, but can also lead to death — that’s how “sitting” was linked to more deaths than cigarettes last year.
Luckily, getting enough exercise is a lot easier than most of us think. The American Medical Association says that just 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week is all it takes to drastically reduce the risk of lifestyle diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart diseases for most adults. There are some really easy ways to inject those weekly minutes of exercise into daily or weekly routines: walking at lunch or after work for 30 minutes every day of the work week, running for less than 40 minutes twice per week, or taking an intense dance, aerobic, or cycling class at a gym twice per week.
Increasing activity would save $500 annually in the average American household, 20% annually to businesses on employee health care costs, and $102 billion annually to the U.S. health care system. So while inactivity is one of the world’s biggest killers, it’s also likely the easiest to combat. Just a little bit can go a long way.