According to new research, 7.2 percent of deaths globally can be attributed to inactivity — one out of every 14. And that number jumps to 7.6 percent if you are looking at deaths caused by heart or blood vessel disease.
The numbers are even worse for wealthier countries. One in every 10 deaths are caused by inactivity. We have cars, desk jobs and cities and towns that are not designed to be friendly to pedestrians or cyclists.
“We’ve designed the world such that in many, many places driving is more or less the only thing you can do,” said Peter Walker. He wrote the book “The Miracle Pill: Why a sedentary world is getting it all wrong.” The book addresses the problem of our sedentary lifestyle and how it could be fixed.
A study in Denmark found that people who cycled for 15 minutes a day were 40 percent less likely to die over a 15-year period. The people were biking for exercise, they were commuting. The researchers called the daily movement a miracle pill, which is where Mr. Walker got the name for his book. Finding ways to get “incidental movement” into your day without necessarily thinking of it as exercise could be the trick to health.
Other research has shown that people who sit for 11 or more hours a day have a 40 percent higher risk of dying within three years than people who sit fewer than four hours a day. That number was found after accounting for things like someone’s other health factors, like whether or not they were in a wheelchair. If they equalized for all aspects, being still was the problem. Even if you can’t walk or stand, it’s about the movement overall that counts. The study found that the average adult spends ninety percent of their “off time” being still and that less than half of us meet the WHO’s activity recommendations.
Additionally, inactivity can increase your risk of developing dementia by 8.1 percent. So moving can help keep your mind sharp as well as your body. Many of us think it’s a lost cause, that we are unfit and therefore doomed to see these numbers as inevitable. Or, worse still, that we are beyond some tipping point. But none of this means you have to rush out and get a gym membership. There is always time for a little movement, and some exercise is much better than none.
“Being active and doing things like standing up, stretching, walking, strengthening and using our muscles, and getting our hearts pumping through cardio exercise, all helps our bodies function optimally,” said CNN fitness contributor Stephanie Mansour.
Taking the first step is the hardest and the most important. Just start working a bit of extra movement into your day. It will all add up, and your mind and body will thank you!