This article was inspired by my decision to enter another race, and planning my training schedule leading up to it. We are currently hearing that “sitting is the new smoking”. Sitting is even being classified as a “disease”, and physical inactivity is considered to be the 4th leading risk factor for global mortality. Inactivity could be just as damaging to health as smoking is, and one study has shown that any improvement in fitness due to time at the gym was almost completely negated by staying still for a few hours. According to juststand.org, 3.2 million deaths per year are as a result of inactivity. How many of us now work for hours on end at a desk instead of being active outdoors? How many of us drive short distances instead of cycling or walking?
I love being outside “doing stuff”. For me that usually involves running, but of course other activities, both indoor and outdoor, are available. There are a multitude of reasons to get active, but inactivity might not just mean the lack of taking exercise – it could also relate to lack of taking action. Here are three alarming consequences of the avoidance of activity, or indeed action:
Weak structure. I’m passionate about creating excellent bone health, and my book Love Your Bones is testament to that. It takes as little as 3 days of bed rest before you start to lose bone density in your spine. Of course there are many aspects to loss of bone density, but inactivity is proven to be one of them. Think it won’t happen to you? The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) informs us otherwise:
Worldwide, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually, resulting in an osteoporotic fracture every 3 seconds.
Osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide – approximately one-tenth of women aged 60, one-fifth of women aged 70, two-fifths of women aged 80 and two-thirds of women aged 90.
Osteoporosis affects an estimated 75 million people in Europe, USA and Japan.
For the year 2000, there were an estimated 9 million new osteoporotic fractures, of which 1.6 million were at the hip, 1.7 million were at the forearm and 1.4 million were clinical vertebral fractures. Europe and the Americas accounted for 51% of all these fractures, while most of the remainder occurred in the Western Pacific region and Southeast Asia.
Worldwide, 1 in 3 women over age 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as will 1 in 5 men aged over 50.
The incidence of hip fractures in Canada is expected to quadruple by 2030.
If these are not frightening statistics, I don’t know what are. What can you do to eliminate these risks? A good starting point would be to read Love Your Bones. Now in its second print edition, I am very proud of this book.
Heart disease. Inactivity significantly increases your risk of mortality from heart disease. Research indicates that men who sit for an average of 3 hours per day (23 hours per week) have a 64% increased risk of heart disease. Your healthy diet and exercise regime won’t necessarily save you if you have a desk-based job. Women can halve their risk of a heart attack if they exercise for 3 hours per week. Yes, you do have time for that. Muscles burn less fat and blood flows more slowly during prolonged sitting, which leads to clogged arteries and fatty liver disease.
What can you do? A plant-based diet with a focus on raw and sprouted foods slashes your risk of heart disease, but you have to move as well. 75% of the benefits of an excellent diet are lost if you don’t exercise. Certain supplements are also proven to have beneficial effects on the biomarkers of cardiovascular disease. Click here to order.
Missed opportunities. This is the inaction part. Did you ever leave it too late to book tickets for an event that you wanted to attend and then couldn’t get in? Was it just you who was disappointed, or your partner too? Or your children? Did you ever miss out on a weekend away because it was already fully booked? What about that dream job you wanted but your application was submitted too late? What might you have lost by inaction? To achieve our goals, we have to take action, and that action has to be timely. If you want something, you have to work at it. Plan ahead. Schedule your time. Focus and take consistent action. Don’t waste time, you’ll never get it back.