It’s alarming to learn that roughly 3.2 million people die every year due to physical inactivity. Here are some facts and suggestions to avoid becoming part of that statistic!

Are you a couch potato? Do you have a sedentary lifestyle? If your life includes a lot of sitting and lying down with very little to no exercise, this might describe you. Our lives have become more inactive – long days sitting at a desk at work, sitting in cars, buses, or trains, binge-watching TV, or playing hours of video games.

    What’s bound to happen? It’s a no-brainer that burning fewer calories makes you gain weight. Your metabolism can slow down, resulting in the body having difficulty breaking down fats and sugar. If you’re not using your muscles, you might lose strength and endurance. Bones can get weaker, blood circulation can decline, and inflammation might increase. Lack of physical activity has been shown to increase feelings of anxiety and depression. COVID often hits inactive people much harder than those who exercise.

    Some benefits of exercise are immediate. Just one session of physical activity boosts thinking and improves cognitive function for many, and reduces short-term feelings of anxiety. Activity also stimulates brain chemicals that can heighten the happiness level. For those who are overweight, each pound lost can reduce the load on the knee joints by 4 lbs. (1.81 kg.) Add it up – for every pound lost, that’s 40 lbs. (18.14 kg) less weight for the knees to support, resulting in less wear and tear, reducing the risk of osteoarthritis.

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    Long-term benefits can’t be beat! Being active boosts the body’s “good” cholesterol, which keeps blood flowing smoothly, lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. A faster-beating heart delivers nutrients and extra oxygen throughout the body. The quality of sleep improves as you fall asleep faster and get a deeper sleep. Muscle strength is improved and endurance is also boosted with regular exercise.

    Even the risk of developing certain cancers – bladder, breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, lung, and stomach — is lowered by being physically active. Exercise is linked with prevention of stroke, high blood pressure, arthritis, depression and anxiety, and falls. Type 2 diabetics can see controlled blood sugar levels and a lower risk of heart and nerve damage.   

•    The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 110,000 deaths in the U.S. could be prevented every year if adults 40 and older increased their moderate-to-vigorous activity by just a small amount.

•    So where do you start? It’s never too late to get started.    A person who’s been inactive, can start with just 5-10 minutes of moderate activity each day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, take a short brisk walk at lunch, rev up the pace when you mow the lawn or do household chores. Take more steps! For older adults, the risk of premature death declines at about 6,000 to 8,000 steps per day. Research indicates that each extra 1,000 steps above that was associated with a 15% reduction in risk of death. Riding a stationary bike has been shown to slow cell decline in older adults as well.

    Just 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week will bring health benefits that can’t be ignored. And don’t forget the side benefit of a boost in confidence and self-esteem!