So, what is it? Heart disease? Cancer? Diabetes? The black death?
Surprisingly, it’s none of those things. And truth be told, you’re probably not going to like the answer. The biggest public health problem of the 21st century may, in fact, be physical inactivity.
Right now, you may be thinking “Duh! That’s why I train for 8 hours a day! It’s about time I got some recognition.” Or, perhaps you’re feeling the slightest twinge of guilt, because you’re not as physically active as you’d like to be (and probably should be). Either way, it’s ok! So, let’s move on.
In a not-so-distant study that appeared in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Professor Stephen Blair proposed that, “There is now overwhelming evidence that regular physical activity has important and wide-ranging health benefits. These range from reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers to enhanced function and preservation of function with age. I believe that evidence supports the conclusion that physical inactivity is one of the most important public health problems of the 21st century, and may even be the most important.
Now, let’s get one thing straight. Exercise is merely one solution, not the solution. Physical activity is the solution, and that can take many forms – exercise being one of them. But if going to the gym, doing a home workout, or going for a run isn’t appealing to you, then there are a ton of other non-exercise activities you could be doing instead. If you’re at a loss for ideas, here’s a list of 100 Ways to Disguise Exercise that I put together awhile ago. Believe me, there’s no shortage of ideas!
So, why is nobody talking about this? Why do we get fixated on the drugs, surgeries, and other extreme solutions to our health problems? It’s because we’re hard-wired to believe that it can’t be that easy. There must be some other solution to all our problems. We’re constantly seeking this special, hidden knowledge for the next best thing. Chris at Conditioning Research had a great post on this phenomenon here: Gnosticism in Health and Fitness. Please read that, or at least skim it to get the idea.
So, the point is that even though we know THAT WE KNOW physical activity is the best solution to our epic health problems, we don’t want to believe it. Thus, we ignore the real solution and keep looking for another one. It’s not uncommon for some people spend years doing this, and some people even spend a lifetime searching, when the true solution has been right under their nose the whole time.
So, it’s not just that physical activity is good for us. It’s that physical INactivity is really – REALLY – bad for us. And I’m not just talking when it comes to life expectancy here. When it comes down to it, physical inactivity directly impacts your quality of life. That’s just another way of saying it affects everything. Not just how you feel physically, but how you feel mentally and emotionally. It also affects how you perform. And no, not just at the Olympics, but at everything – how you perform at work, at home, at social events. It is logical to assume that for everything that physical activity helps (which is basically everything), physical INactivity undermines.
So, this is a landmark study that has beyond far-reaching implications that we’re only beginning to understand. The good news is that we don’t need to understand the far-reaching implications in order to benefit from the study’s conclusion (and practically every other health study’s conclusion). They all tell us the same thing: physical activity is good for us – really good. And this new direction of research may eventually prove that it is, in fact, the most critical factor when it comes to improving our health, well being, and quality of life (and quantity of life, too, which is not a bad perk, if you ask me).
So, if this was just the nudge you needed to put a stake in the ground today and decide to start, restart, or boost your physical activity routine, then don’t let anything stop you. And if this is all new to you, and you’re at a loss for where to get started, here’s what I’d recommend. Actually, I’d recommend this one activity to practically everybody – even if you’re a die-hard athlete or fitness trainee.
And if this post didn’t nudge you at all, then that’s ok. I’ll keep believing in you, and I’ll keep working on you, too. You’ll come around.
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CST Coach, CST-KS
Health-First Fitness Coach