Dominique Gummelt, PhD by Dominique Gummelt, PhD

“Sitting will kill you”—this is a CNN headline that caught my eye a few days ago. In fact, many recent research studies have revealed that being sedentary and sitting too much will shorten one’s lifespan, diminish quality of life and contribute to the development of chronic diseases. 

How is it possible that, with the knowledge and technology available today, we have managed to adapt such sedentary, self-destructive behaviors? Slowly, but surely, we have arrived at a daily routine that involves hardly ANY physical activity, intentional or non-intentional. We are now reaping the consequences of not moving our bodies. This should give us a clue, namely, that our bodies were made to MOVE—not to be sedentary. 

The human body is an amazing and fascinating organism, which works BEST when it’s active. It is vital that health and fitness professionals fully comprehend this significance to be able to communicate its importance to clients. Understanding the value of one’s own human parts and mechanisms will contribute to a greater appreciation of one’s entire system, hopefully creating a desire to take care of it more intentionally.

Here are some amazing facts about the human body:

  • There are an estimated 37.2 trillion cells in the body (at maturity)
  • On average, adult bodies contain 5.5 liters of blood and about 10 liters of interstitial fluid
  • Adults are made up of approximately 7 octillion atoms
  • The human heart beats around 100,000 times per day
  • The human lungs have a surface of around 70 square meters
  • On average, adults blink 10 times per minute
  • It takes the human body about 12 hours to digest food 

I often ask my clients and students, “Don’t you wish you had a zipper going down the front of your body, so you could open it and see what’s going on at all times?” The answers vary, but if you imagined the same thing and “unzipped” yourself, you would find out one key thing about your body: It is ALWAYS in motion! There is constant movement within our bodies. 

Benefits of Physical Activity 

Examining the immediate and long-term benefits of physical activity provides clear evidence that the human body is made to move. Examples of powerful benefits of movement include: 

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better regulation of blood sugar
  • Lower resting heart rate
  • Better control of body fat
  • Improved immune function
  • Increased muscular strength and endurance
  • Improved cardiorespiratory functioning
  • Increased flexibility
  • Better join health
  • Improved mental functioning
  • Higher quality of sleep 

In just a few minutes, physical activity boosts our metabolism. Research shows that physical activity decreases depression and increases self-esteem. This list could go on and on. Further, it is important to realize that the human body contains more than 600 muscles, which is an indication that the body was constructed for amazing physical capabilities. It is clear that the human body functions best when it is active. There is power in motion! 

Consequences of Physical Inactivity 

Further proof that the human body was designed to move, are the consequences of not moving. Physical inactivity leads to deterioration, such as: 

  • Loss of bone density
  • Stiffening of joints
  • Weakening of muscles
  • Weakening of the heart and lungs
  • Degeneration of the cellular energy systems 

As soon as one sits down, electrical activity shuts off in the leg muscles. Calorie burning is significantly reduced (potentially to as little as one calorie or less, depending on one's height, weight, gender, etc.) and lipase, an enzyme in the legs that assists with the breakdown of fat, dramatically and rapidly drops. After two hours of sitting, HDL (the so-called good cholesterol) levels drop by 20 percent. After 24 hours of sitting, insulin effectiveness drops 24 percent and the risk for diabetes rises. Sitting increases the risk of death up to 40 percent. 

Inactivity is killing people and is arguably one of the greatest threats of our time. The World Health Organization (WHO) asserts that physical inactivity constitutes the fourth leading cause of death globally, causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths globally. 

As health and fitness professionals, we have a responsibility to educate our clients about the human body, its functions, abilities and needs. Recognizing that the human body was made to move and that it functions best when it is regularly physically active provides a critical foundation for our clients’ journey to improve their fitness and overall wellbeing. Further, it is essential that health and fitness professionals design effective exercise plans that include daily physical activity and structured exercise for maximized success and to meet the human body’s innate need to be in constant motion.