Stand up! The sobering statistics on inactivity

By now the quote my Dr. James Levine, “Sitting is the new smoking” is very likely familiar to you.  A number of studies have come out discussing the devastating effects of chronic sitting and the fact that you cannot simply exercise your way out of the negative health outcomes.  Physical inactivity is currently ranked 4th from the top of the preventable killer list by the World Health Organization and will be the cause of 3.2 million deaths annually. 


A study by the American Cancer Society published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, followed over 123,000 adults for 13 years.  The results were sobering.  The 2010 study showed that women who were inactive and sat for for than six hours a day were 94 percent more likely to die during the period studied than those who were physically active and sat for less than three hours per day.  Men who were inactive and sat for more than six hours per day were 48 percent more likely to die than their active counterparts.  It is important to note that these findings are independent of physical activity levels.  The negative effects of sitting were just as strong in people who exercised regularly.


We are designed to move, for more than 200,000 years we have been on the move because it was a means of travel and finding nourishment for our bodies. The only time we were inactive was when we slept.  Fast forward to modern times and our average American spends 13 hours each day sitting according to Dr Levine’s research.  With the invention of the car, television, and computer, our life as we once knew it for hundreds of thousands of years was over and we entered the sedentary era.    

Inactivity causes pain, I rarely see someone new come into the gym who isn’t in some kind of pain.  According to the National Institutes of Health, back pain affects 8 out of 10 people in their lifetime and is the leading cause of disability worldwide.  To add insult to injury, the Centers for Disease control reports that we are spending 75 cents of every health care dollar on chronic conditions linked to sedentary behavior like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.   Many people scoff off the issue like we are blowing it out of proportion but if you drive your car day in and day out allowing your tire tread wear down to nothing until a drive on the uneven surface of a road caused your tire to blow out, what actually caused the tire to go flat?  The road obviously finished the job but without the chronic exposure to the road and the subsequent wear to the tires, a drive across an uneven road would have been uneventful.  Unfortunately, the same is true with the health problems of modern times, our sedentary lifestyle is the road that wears our bodies thin and sets the stage for pain and disease.

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