Physical activity: the wonder drug we don’t bother taking
This dangerously low level of physical activity is putting a large number of people at substantially greater risk of a whole host of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Which all adds up to a major burden on global health. An international study published in the Lancet estimated that physical inactivity is responsible for 9% of all premature deaths worldwide. Eliminating this inactivity would theoretically add an extra eight months to the life expectancy of the world’s population.
It’s no surprise that the impact is financial too. The annual cost of physical inactivity to the economy of Europe is estimated to be over €80bn – more than the entire world spends on cancer drugs each year.
Too often, exercise is only mentioned in relation to weight loss. However, a long-term Europe-wide study found that roughly twice as many deaths are due to physical inactivity as are caused by obesity alone.
It’s now clear that the benefits of physical activity go way beyond helping maintain a healthy weight. Just a small dose of regular exercise can benefit a huge range of conditions – everything from dementia to cancer. So much so, in fact, that an analysis of over 300 separate studies, published in the BMJ, determined exercise interventions to be just as effective as drug treatments in preventing heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
It doesn’t take a daily marathon to reap the benefits of keeping active. In a study of over 600,000 people in Europe and America, tracked for an average of 14 years, those who achieved the recommended 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, five times a week reduced their risk of premature death by 31% compared with those who did not exercise at all.
A regular dose of activity helps keep your body at its best, and, alongside the appropriate medication, can delay the onset of disease and manage chronic conditions. Put simply, exercise is a miracle cure – and one that not enough of us bother to take.
So pull on your trainers and start giving yourself a daily dose of sweat. The benefits are there for the taking, even if it means making your life harder in the short term.