There was a time long ago when the leading causes of death were due to non-preventable factors like age and gender. Sadly, we now live in a time when children and adults, and men and women alike are developing chronic diseases caused by preventable risk factors such as poor diet and sedentary lifestyles. As a matter of fact, physical inactivity is now the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality[i].
As a nation, we spend far more time sitting on the couch and scrolling through our Instagram feed than we do moving our bodies. All of this sedentary living is costing us dearly, not only wreaking havoc on our physical health, but also robbing us of our emotional wellbeing and hitting us where it hurts the most—our wallets. Here’s a look at the price we pay for inactivity:
Quality of Life
Regular physical activity can boost mood and decrease anxiety, depression and anger[ii]. In fact, many therapists recommend regular physical activity as part of a treatment plan to combat the effects of depression. The amount of sitting we do can lead to daily discomforts like chronic back pain and has even been shown to knock years off of our lifespan[iii]. Furthermore, objects in motion tend to stay in motion. If you’re regularly moving your body, it’s easier to continue moving and to say yes to all that an active lifestyle has to offer—social activities, hiking, running, dancing, biking, etc.
Only 55 percent of adults engage in enough physical activity to achieve its health benefits, and that number is even lower for children, with only 25 percent meeting activity guidelines[iv]. Sedentary lifestyles can lead to a decrease in bone density and lean muscle mass; tightened hip muscles; and an overall loss in muscle strength, making even small daily tasks more difficult[v]—and that’s just the minor stuff. Lack of regular physical activity also increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers[vi].
Physical inactivity accounts for roughly 8.7 percent of U.S. health care expenditures, or approximately $117 billion per year. Adults who are physically active spend nearly $1,500 less per year on health care than inactive adults[vii]. Moving our culture from sedentary to active could save us billions of dollars in health care costs in the years to come.
Physical inactivity is an equal opportunity issue, affecting all Americans regardless of race, age or gender, directly or indirectly. If you’re wondering, “Where is the silver lining?” we’ve got good news—the inactivity crisis is entirely preventable. Each and every one of us can make positive changes to get ourselves and others moving. Start with small actions, like committing to more outdoor, active family time; using your voice to vote for candidates that support physical activity; or incorporating walking and standing into your work day. Most importantly, we all need to adopt the attitude that small actions can cause big change.
For more information on how ACE works to create a more active culture check out our Key Position Statements.
[i] World Health Organization (2016). Physical Activity. Retrieved from who.int.
[ii] Johns Hopkins Medicine (2017). Risks of Physical Inactivity. Retrieved from http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/cardiovascular_diseases/risks_of_physical_inactivity_85,p00218/.
[iii] Biswas A, Oh PI, Faulkner GE, Bajaj RR, Silver MA, Mitchell MS, et al. Sedentary Time and Its Association with Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalization in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2015; 162:123-132. Retrieved from http://annals.org/aim/article/2091327/sedentary-time-its-association-risk-disease-incidence-mortality-hospitalization-adults.
[iv] Trust for America’s Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2016). The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America. Retrieved from stateofobesity.org.
[v] World Health Organization (2002). Physical Inactivity a Leading Cause of Disease and Disability, Warns WHO. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/release23/en/.
[vi] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). Facts about Physical Activity. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/data/facts.htm.
[vii] Carlson SA, Fulton JE, Pratt M, Yang Z, Adams EK. Inadequate Physical Activity and Health Care Expenditures in the United States. Progress in cardiovascular diseases. 2015;57(4):315-323. 2014.08.002. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604440/.