Exercise And “High Risk Inactivity”

“High-Risk Inactivity”

This title was used in the Washington Post Health Section (3/26/02) to discuss an important study (3/14/02 New England Journal of Medicine) on the consequences of an inactive lifestyle to your overall health.

The study found the risk of death in the fittest patients was about half that of the least fit. The Washington Post article summarizes “while the fittest patients had the lowest risk of death regardless of underlying condition, the biggest gain in the protective benefit of exercise occurred at the other end of the spectrum. When the least fit subjects stepped up their physical activity, their relative risk of death dropped by a higher proportion than any other groups.” “Yet, physicians rarely seriously recommend exercise as a therapy for patients with elevated health risks.”

Sedentary Death Syndrome

The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports has coined the phrase “Sedentary Death Syndrome” to categorize the emerging entity of sedentary lifestyle-mediated disorders that ultimately result in increased mortality.” “Weak skeletal muscles, low bone density, hyperglycemia, glucosuria [sugar in the urine], low serum HDL [low good cholesterol], obesity, low physical endurance, and resting tachycardia [high resting heart rate] are a set or group of symptoms that together characterize Sedentary Death Syndrome.”

The council goes on to say that “30% of the deaths for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer would be prevented by moderate-intensity physical activity that expended 1000kcal/wk” [1000 calories per week]. “The number of deaths from sedentary living is two times greater that that from microbial agents and also exceed all deaths from firearms, illicit usage of drugs, sexually transmitted diseases, and motor vehicle accidents. Thus, a major cause of death in the US is sedentary living [highlights added].

In other words, the sedentary death syndrome comprises one of the top three causes of all-cause mortality in the US today….” “Therefore, in the last 100 years, the leading causes of death have dramatically shifted from the scourges of infectious disease (in 1900), to tobacco, obesity, and Sedentary Death Syndrome (in 2000), which in essence constitute the new scourge for humanity.”

Studies published in 2000 and 2001 respectively show that “82 % of coronary heart disease and 91% of type 2 diabetes is caused by high-risk lifestyles. Thus, the corollary by logical inference is that a large majority of such disease are preventable by engaging in low-risk lifestyles. Low risk behavior was defined as a combination of five variables: BMI of less than 25 [to calculate your Body Mass Index see my website homepage and click on announcement #7]; a diet high in cereal fiber and polyunsaturated fat and low in trans fat [partially hydrogenated oil] and glycemic load (which reflects the effect of diet on the blood glucose level); engagement in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least half an hour per day; no current smoking; and the consumption of an average of at least half a drink of an alcoholic beverage per day.”

Of all the council’s statements, the one I find most significant is “preventing a chronic health condition in the first place is more humane and produces less suffering than secondary or tertiary treatment of full-blown over disease. In other words, the practice of primary prevention is a fundamental demonstration of the very essence of the Hippocratic oath…. It is indeed ironic that practicing primary prevention is considered basic common sense in other inanimate aspects of our daily life, when we neglect to do the same when it comes to our own personal health, a most fragile entity.

For example, is it not less damaging and expensive for an automobile to undergo routine maintenance such as oil changes rather than to undergo a complete engine replacement after several years of neglect?” WOW! This is the President’s Council talking, not me! PREVENTION– WHAT A CONCEPT!

Age and exercise- “it is never too late to start exercising,” says Jerome Fleg, who studies the health benefits of exercise at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). “There is no age that we have found where you can no longer reap the benefits of physicial activity.”

“It’s not that you are too old to exercise, it is that you are too old not to exercise,” syas Walter Michael Bortz II, a professor of medicine at Stanford University in California and a 70-year-old marathoner. “Fitness becomes a survival issue.”

“Equally enlightening, given the growing number of overweight and sedentary American, is new research suggesting that most of the physical changes chalked up to growing old – insulin resistance, decreased lung function and elevated systolic blood pressures – are not due to aging at all, but to inactivity.”
Washington Post 4/23/02 “In It for the Long Run” by Sally Squires


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