Risks of Not Exercising

Risks of Not Exercising

Fewer than 5 percent of adults engage in minimal daily physical activity, and only a third of kids do. Unfortunately, this lack of activity can affect your health in a profoundly negative way.

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Joint and Bone Fragility

Perhaps the least obvious among the risks of not exercising is the impact on your joints and bones. A frequently exercised (and stretched) joint is flexible, while an unused one is weaker, less elastic, and more prone to nasty tears. Muscle shortening, which goes hand in hand with this, can further the problem by creating involuntary imbalances in the body that cause injuries over time. As for the bones, elderly women, in particular, are susceptible to bone brittleness. Part of this has to do with calcium intake, but exercise is another key component in keeping the bone mass intact.

Weight Gain

If you don’t exercise, you may have difficulty controlling your weight. The extra pounds that come with too many hours on the couch may be a result of an inactive lifestyle, especially when coupled with poor dietary habits. Life-altering health problems, general discomfort, social challenges, extra health care costs, and travel hassles are all possible downsides of weight gain.

Increased Risk of Certain Cancers

Evidence links lack of physical activity to certain cancers, including colon, breast, and endometrial cancers. There is a less clear correlation between other types of cancers and lack of exercise, but the evidence is still strong enough that lack of exercise is considered a contributing factor to liver, kidney, stomach, esophageal, and bladder cancer as well as melanoma and leukemia.

Circulatory System Problems

Your heart is a muscle like any other and without regular exercises, it weakens, just like a bicep or calf muscle that never gets any use. Then, when you suddenly need to move quickly, your heart can’t handle going from zero to 65 quickly, sometimes with tragic results. Meanwhile, the lungs grow inefficient at absorbing oxygen, leaving you out-of-breath and wheezing from walking a few stairs when the elevator is out of order. Finally, your blood pressure rises, with stiffening of the blood vessels as a result. This, in turn, encourages plaque buildup, which sets the stage for strokes and other potential disasters down the road.

Lack of Endurance

If you don’t exercise regularly, chances are you’ve noticed a certain lack of endurance when performing certain tasks. This can manifest in many ways. Maybe you get winded walking to your mailbox. Maybe you notice that just a few steps into a hike you feel tired all over. Perhaps you can’t cut a rug on the dance floor like you used to, or you may not have the get-up-and-go to chase your children and grandchildren with their boundless energy.

Lack of endurance can seriously hamper your life and keep you from doing enjoyable things. Exercising regularly, even walking at a brisk pace for 20 to 30 minutes three times per week, can help condition your heart and lungs so your endurance grows, and you can enjoy the things you want to without feeling wiped out before you even start.

Loss of Mobility

If you don’t exercise, it’s likely you won’t be able to move as well as time passes. There are many reasons for this, including some of the aforementioned, such as lack of strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance, as well as weight gain. All these factors combine to keep you immobile or decrease your ability to move comfortably and without pain or extreme effort. Likewise, the less mobile you come, the less likely you are to want to get moving, which has a downward spiral effect that can cause long-term health issues.

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of symptoms that include abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, low levels of high-density lipoproteins (good cholesterol), and elevated fasting blood sugar. This can elevate risks for a number of health problems, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and nearly 35 percent of all adults with 50 percent of adults over 60 have this condition. Lack of exercise and diet are the two biggest contributors to metabolic syndrome.

Increased Risk of Death From any Cause

If you don’t exercise, there’s a chance you’ll die earlier than your fitter counterparts. A study showed lack of exercise appeared to cause twice the amount of deaths as those linked to obesity. Even a small amount of exercise – as little as a 20-minute walk daily – reduced those risks.

Get Off the Couch

There’s little doubt that exercise is good for the body and mind. If you’ve slipped into a sedentary lifestyle, it’s not too late to make a change. Consult your physician about which exercises are best for you, start out slow, and work your way toward better health.