Countless experts in countless countries have warned us how little progress has been made in combating physical inactivity. Despite the toll it takes on our health.
The latest report comes from the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO estimates that more than a quarter of people worldwide – in other words, that 1 in 4 people you know – are not getting enough exercise. This is despite knowing they should, and despite knowing how little exercise our body actually need to remain a finely functioning machine.
When science told us smoking was bad, or that too much bacon was bad, the stats changed as people laid off the smokes and bacon. But the same warning from the science community about a lack of physical activity is not getting us off the couches and onto a ballfield or riding a bike to work.
That figure, of 1 in 4 of us not getting any exercise, has barely changed since the turn of the century. WHO says that in places like the US and UK, rates of inactivity are actually on the rise.
So, What’s the Risk?
We’re not using the muscles god or evolution gave us, and that’s not good on our design. Chronic inactivity gives you aches and pains, and makes exerting yourself unnecessarily strenuous. Use it or lose it, your body says.
Chronic inactivity also raises the risk of health problems as serious as heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
The new WHO study (published in The Lancelet) was super comprehensive, spanning 168 countries and 1.9 million countries. High-income countries are among the least active, no surprise there – we’re the ones heaved off in front of Netflix at night, working sedentary office jobs by day, and enjoying inactive hobbies. In Newfoundland, we rely so much on cars to get around, that our right to park our cars wherever we wish is the #1 recurring contested issue in city council meetings. It is, no joke, in City Council Minutes that St. John’s was upset about bike lanes interfering with parking.
Interestingly, women were found to be more sedentary throughout the world. By sedentary, perhaps the report means busy rearing kids or working 2 jobs because of pay inequity.
So, How Much Exercise is Just Enough?
So how much exercise should you be getting then? Chances are you’re between 19-64 if you’re reading this, so the answer is a mere 3 hours a week of moderate exercise like a walk, run, swim, skate, playing a sport, whatever.
It’s ideal to toss in 2 days of a week of strength training, like yoga or hitting the weights at the gym. That is just under a half an hour a day. 28-ish minutes a day of exercise to maybe save your life, certainly prolong it, and definitely make you feel better, more alive, and less creaky.
For those 65+, it’s the same – roughly 25 minutes a day – but the 2 days a week of strength training exercises is more important. Kids should be encouraged to expend all that pent up energy, and exercise for 60 minutes a day or more. So let’s keep gym in the curriculum, shall we?
Government Action Required
Let’s keep the moral of this story in civic action: Governments in our super-sedentary modern world must continue to provide and maintain infrastructure that promotes sports and recreation, for all ages.
If you’ve read this article thoroughly, for instance, you might be wondering why your grandmother’s retirement home doesn’t have a gym in it. Or why your city still isn’t bike-to-work friendly.