Physical Inactivity Can Kill You
THAT is the message from both the American Heart Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. For decades, smoking, high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol were listed as the only major alterable risk factors for heart disease. But in 1992 another factor was added—physical inactivity. Perhaps it is the easiest one to control.
“Just do it and do it regularly,” said Dr. John Duncan of Dallas, Texas. Unfortunately, most don’t exercise regularly. “There is a misimpression in America that in the fitness fad of the last three or four years, more Americans are engaged in physical activity,” said Tom McMillen, cochairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. “That is not true. About 250,000 deaths each year are attributed to inactivity.”
“Only 22 percent of Americans are active today to levels recommended for good health benefits,” according to Dr. Walter R. Dowdle, acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. “A national effort is needed to combat the high level of physical inactivity in the United States.”
Strenuous activity is not required, as Canada’s Medical Post reported: “New research has confirmed that even a leisurely stroll can produce health benefits.” Dr. Anthony Graham, chief of cardiology at the Wellesley Hospital in Toronto, Canada, explained: “We’re talking here about modest physical activity, some form of regular activity that may be as modest as working in your garden several times a week on a regular basis, or taking relatively short walks. . . . We’re now learning even this amount of activity done on a regular basis will reduce one’s individual risk. It’s sort of a ‘something for everyone’ approach to exercise.”
Dr. Russell Pate of the University of South Carolina concurred, saying: “I’m convinced that millions and millions of people out there have the view that if they can’t join a spa and spend five hours a week there, forget it. I think we have to officially sanction the idea that a nice, comfortable walk around the block after dinner is a very desirable thing to do.”
Since even modest physical activity is beneficial to your health, can you regularly take a walk or walk up and down stairs instead of taking an elevator? Why not park a distance from your destination, perhaps the grocery store, and walk the rest of the way? “Anything is better than nothing,” observed Dr. Robert E. Leach, chairman of orthopedics at Boston University Medical Center.