As far as significant studies go, the recent finding by medical researchers indicating that inactivity could actually be worse than obesity is adding to the already convincing evidence pointing to aerobic exercise as a hallmark defense against premature death. But before we go around proclaiming that a lack of exercise is deadlier than obesity, let’s review the conclusion of the study, how it was reached, and what other studies might corroborate the finding.
[Link to the study is here: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2015/01/14/ajcn.114.100065.full.pdf ]
This project included samples sourced from over 330,000 participants spanning a period of over 12+ years. The statistics that were factored were peoples Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference. Using a well-recognized method of representing the data, the researchers arrived at this conclusion: “[this study] suggests that efforts to encourage even small increases in activity in inactive individuals may be beneficial to public health.”
The study found that out of the 9.2 million deaths analyzed in this study, 337,000 were associated with obesity. However, 676,000 were associated with physical inactivity. Basically, the study found that lack of exercise is twice as risky as obesity when it comes to early deaths.
In the group of 334,000 people, the group that saw the greatest decrease in early death was the group that moved from inactive to moderately inactive. This was true for people who are normal weight and even more true people who were obese. Essentially, the people who were obese and inactive saw the greatest decrease in early mortality.
This study has significant science behind it and it reinforces what health professionals have been saying for a while: move more and live longer.
Why Lack of Exercise is Deadlier than Obesity
When our bodies are not used for prolonged periods of time, the various systems in the body that are responsible for maintaining it begin to slow down and metabolic changes begin to take place in the human body. Blood circulation is hindered. Transportation of vital nutrients throughout the body slowly becomes impeded. Organs like the liver and kidneys don’t operate optimally, and all of this results in common health conditions related to pain, inflammation, and eventually, chronic diseases leading to death.
Because our bodies are so well suited for even small amounts physical activity, it makes sense that we should engage in more of it in order to be at our best. When we don’t exercise enough, our cardiovascular system – the network of blood vessels that serves our tissues and organs – doesn’t really have to work very hard. This stagnation creates a groove of complacency, and sometimes it’s very difficult to break out of it.
Obesity still has a ridiculously high mortality rate. And although the study showed that lack of exercise pose a greater risk to early mortality than obesity, fitness and fatness are essentially two sides of the same coin. If you are inactive, it often leads to obesity. By maintaining a level of light exercise daily, you can dramatically increase your chances of living a full life by staying fit and avoiding obesity.
What Kind of Exercises Should You Do to Increase Your Lifespan?
The best way to engage the cardiovascular system and get it healthier is to exercise, but not just any exercise is best for prolonging health. Focusing on aerobic activity proves to yield the best results over time. This includes activities like jogging, cycling, swimming and elliptical training. Even exercising aerobically just twenty minutes a day can help stave off early death.
Remember that an aerobic activity increases heart rate. The goal of training aerobically is to bring the heart rate to a target level and keep it there throughout the workout. There is some interesting conversation going on right now within the fitness community about High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT. This brand of aerobic exercise incorporates small bursts of intense spikes in heart rate to really shock the body into performing.
Regardless of your age or level of physical ability, there is probably a way for you to incorporate more movement into your life. Despite having benefits related to appearance and mood, aerobic physical exercise can now be viewed as a way to potentially add years to our lives. Remember to check with a medical professional before beginning any new exercise program.
If you haven’t ever done aerobic activity, then it might be worthwhile to hire a personal trainer who can guide you along your way. Check with your local gym or online to find a good fitness mentor. Before you know it, you’ll be reaping the rewards of a healthier life, a better functioning body, and more time to enjoy doing the things you love.