According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 15 percent of the American adult population is physically inactive. Extensive research has shown that regular exercise can decrease the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even reduce the risk of several types of cancer. In addition, exercise helps maintain a healthy blood pressure and cholesterol and can reduce pain and inflammation. The benefits extend beyond the preventative; exercise increases endorphins, boosting your mood, promotes better sleep, helps with weight loss, and builds strong bones and muscles.
People classified as inactive said they had not participated in leisure-time physical activity in the past month. This includes even low amounts of exercise associated with activities such as gardening. The most inactive state is Mississippi, with 33 percent of its adult residents labeled inactive. The state with the fewest inactive adults is Colorado, at 17.3 percent. It is one of only four states (including Washington D.C. (which has an inactivity level of 19.8 percent), with less than 20 percent of their residents classified as inactive. The other three states are Oregon, Utah and Washington.
This report may not come as a surprise, considering that it is now estimated that by the year 2030, half of all Americans will be obese. This is in addition to recent evidence, with data pooled from nine studies (which included over 750,000 people), that regular activity can also reduce the odds that you’ll develop seven types of cancer. The incredible detail is that the evidence shows the more active you are, the lower your risk of developing the cancers.
“We found that the recommended amount of physical activity was in fact associated with significantly reduced risk for breast, colon, endometrial, kidney, liver, myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma,” said lead researcher Charles Matthews, a senior investigator at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it is recommended that adults:
- Get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week.
- Add moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity (such as resistance or weights) on at least 2 days per week.
- Spend less time sitting. Even light-intensity activity can offset some of the risks of being sedentary.
- Gain even more benefits by being active at least 300 minutes (5 hours) per week.
- Increase amount and intensity gradually over time.
Recent evidence reiterates that exercise benefits us in many ways, physically, mentally, and helps increase our longevity. So why are so many people inactive? Getting started can be one of the most difficult steps. Gradually increase the amount of active time and set realistic, attainable expectations.
The goal isn’t to use exercise as a quick fix; incorporating activity into your lifestyle takes time, consistency, and may potentially even require overcoming some setbacks. But, once you have established regular physical activity, you’ll be surprised how your body yearns for more, and will thank you for the effort.