Lack of Exercise as Harmful as Smoking

couch potato

How much exercise do you get? You don't have to be a gym rat, marathon runner, or bodybuilder. But you do need to be active and exercise regularly. Sure, you're heard that advice before. But did you know living a sedentary lifestyle may be just as harmful as smoking cigarettes?

In a recent study published in the journal Dibetologia, researchers looked at a large sample of studies on lack of exercise and chronic disease. They found that a sedentary lifestyle significantly increases the risk for diabetes and heart disease. Separate studies found that lack of exercise is also a primary risk for early death.

It's been 18 years since the Tobacco Master Settlement agreement forced the leading cigarette manufacturers to spent more than $200 million on public health campaigns to warn people about the dangers of smoking. Today, less than 18 percent of adults smoke. And those who do, no doubt, realize it's bad for their health in many ways.

Now most people recognize that smoking is harmful to your health. Health officials hope to create the same kind of shift to help people recognize that lack of exercise has a negative impact on your health, too, says University of Gothenburg researcher Dr. Per Ladenvall. "We found that low aerobic capacity was associated with increased rates of death," Ladenvall wrote in a recent study. "The association between exercise capacity and all-cause death was graded, with the strongest risk in the tertile with the lowest maximum aerobic capacity. The effect of aerobic capacity on risk of death was second only to smoking."

If you want to add years to your life and life to your years, aim to get at least 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day, recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine. Take a walk. Ride a bike. Got to the gym. Attend a fitness class. Hire a personal trainer or coach to help you. Or find a workout partner or group you can meet up with to help you stay active and keep you accountable.

Regular exercise will have a big impact on your overall health, waistline, and risk for chronic disease. But you can't out exercise a bad diet. Making healthy food choices will also improve your health and longevity. And it doesn't have to be hard to figure out how to eat healthy if you let help you plan your meals.