When you see someone smoking, you might ask “Why would you do that to yourself when you know it could kill you?” Do you react the same way when you meet someone who doesn’t exercise? You should.
You probably thought smoking was the worst habit anybody could engage in. Well, new evidence suggests that lack of exercise is as bad as smoking tobacco.
Scientists now say that direct and passive tobacco smoking, which has been linked to cancer of the lungs, premature death and sudden infant syndrome, is just as bad as a life without exercise.
It’s hard to imagine that being inactive could be comparable to smoking, but it is. According to researchers, people who do not exercise are also at risk of terminal diseases such as cancer, hypertension, kidney and liver failure.
A new study published in The Lancet estimates that as many as 5.3 million deaths around the world were caused by physical inactivity in 2013; while cigarette smoking is estimated to have caused about five million deaths globally each year.
It states, “We know that as soon as somebody starts moving, their blood sugar improves, their blood cholesterol and triglycerides improve, and that’s very consistent. Every time you move, it gets better. Every time you don’t, it gets worse.
“Physical inactivity has a large impact on the health of the world. In fact, its impact is comparable to that of cigarette smoking.”
Speaking on the findings of the researchers, family health physician, Dr. Segun Agbaje, states that research has shown that six per cent of heart diseases, seven per cent of type 2 diabetes, and about 10 per cent of colon and breast cancers are linked to inactivity.
Agbaje explains that people who do not exercise regularly are more likely to gain weight or become obese – a condition that is fuelling type 2 diabetes, some cancers and heart diseases.
“The only way you can maintain a healthy body weight is through exercise and by keeping fit. When you gain weight, you increase your risk for diseases that are associated with obesity such as cancer of the breast, and heart diseases which kills thousands of people annually.
“While it may take 20 years of tobacco smoking for you to get lung cancer, being overweight can predispose you to type 2 diabetes in just five years. That is why children who are overweight may develop heart diseases or hypertension before they are 30. “You may have laid out plans to lose weight and keep fit this year, please take them seriously. Physicians say that the incidence of non-communicable diseases is increasing at an alarming rate because more people are not exercising.
Nobody wants to die in their prime – not after working so hard. It may seem much, but keeping fit will add more years to your life. However, you don’t have to register at a gym before you keep fit. Experts say that simple activities around your home can help you get back in shape. Here are a few lifestyle choices you can incorporate to get more active.
When it comes to staying active without the gym, walking is one of the easiest, most convenient activities you can do. To burn calories, all you have to do is walk faster and devote more time for each walk.
For the most benefit, use a pedometer to keep track of how much you’re walking, and slowly work up to 10,000 steps a day.
“Walking more does have added value, especially when you walk briskly for a longer duration, uphill, or use your arms for more than just a comfortable gait and swing them with your body,” says fitness expert, Debra Gray. “It might not just be more that’s better, but the intensity and variety of your walking.”
If you can’t walk outside where you live, try indoor walking at a nearby mall, or using a step-exercise video at home.
Stand up at work
Work is a place where most of us are sedentary for hours, and the result is a lost opportunity to burn hundreds (if not thousands) of calories every day. A stand-up desk could help change that. “Standing obviously puts more stress on the body than sitting, thus it will burn more calories,” says a personal trainer, Rich Gaspari.
He adds, “If you stand for an entire workday, it can help increase leg strength and endurance. A little change like standing, instead of sitting, can go a long way.”
If your workplace isn’t a stand-up kind of environment, take a five-minute break at least once an hour to engage in some activity. Experts estimate that standing burn 50 per cent more calories than sitting; so, a 70kg person could burn an extra 50 calories an hour just by getting on their feet.
Clean your house
Cleaning your home or apartment regularly is another way to ensure you stay active during the week. “Cleaning your house can incorporate a variety of muscle groups without your even realizing it, “ Gaspari says.
“Dragging around a heavy vacuum isn’t an easy task, especially if you are going up and down the stairs,” he adds. The fitness guru recommends going a step further and trying to “squeeze your bums every time you take a step.”
While you’re taking a break, try tightening your abdominal muscles for a period of time thoughout each hour, he counsels.
A 70kg person can burn 85 calories per half hour through light cleaning, while vigorous cleaning burns 102 calories in 30 minutes.
Cook at home
Most people don’t think of cooking as exercise, but preparing food at home certainly burns more calories – and usually causes you to consume fewer calories – than eating out or ordering in. “The best way to control what goes into your mouth is to plan ahead and have a home-cooked meal, and I guarantee it can be prepared faster and less expensively than making that extra stop at a restaurant. Do your shopping and cooking on days when you have more time. That way, you will have the meal on hand and can resist the temptation of unhealthy choices.”
Plus, thanks to activities such as standing, light lifting, and chopping, a 70kg person can blast 78 calories in 30 minutes of cooking.