Would you be upset to hear that over 100,000 lives are lost, every year in the UK, for failure to apply a medically proven treatment? Well, it’s true – our high-tech health care system has ignored a simple, low-cost therapy with the capacity to save hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of pounds. And what’s more, we’ve known about it for thousands of years! The ancient Chinese knew about it. The ancient Greeks knew about it. In fact, Aristotle, in 300BC wrote that: ‘a man falls into ill-health as a result of not taking it regularly.’! The Romans not only knew it – but their physicians actually prescribed it for health maintenance of their citizens more than 1500 years ago.
So, what is it…….this amazing wonder cure? Well, it’s simply….Physical Activity!
The fact that regular exercise is beneficial for our health and well-being has been known for centuries.
Yet, despite us knowing this, a recent study from the USA states that as many as 250,000 lives are lost annually due to sedentary lifestyles.
Lack of physical activity is now considered as important a risk for heart disease as smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In fact, in developed nations, physical inactivity contributes to a over 30% of deaths from heart attacks.
This is made even more important by the fact that there are far more people who lead inactive lifestyles than there are those who smoke, or who suffer from high blood pressure or who have high cholesterol! Physical inactivity is a huge cause of premature death and disability.
Historically, we were an energetic nation of farmers, miners, labourers, merchants and travellers. An active life is one that almost everyone had to lead before we achieved industrial modernisation, technological development, the car, television, computers and labour-saving devices. Today we have the reputation of being an overweight, lazy, complacent nation, content to while away the hours with fast food, TV and video games.
The UK National Fitness Survey confirmed what many health and fitness professionals have known for years – that as a nation, we are not as fit nor as active as we should be. As a result of our sedentary lifestyles we suffer from a host of illnesses and diseases that affect our quality of life and shorten our active life span.
The Survey found that:
- Those who reported inactive, sedentary lifestyles generally showed poorer health records (even if they had been very active in their youth).
- There was a strong association between those reporting good or very good health status and those participating in regular physical activity.
- Those who reported participating in regular physical activity followed generally healthier lifestyles – fewer smokers, low alcohol consumption, healthier dietary habits – than those who were physically inactive.
7 out of 10 men and 8 out of 10 women were taking insufficient regular exercise to achieve a health benefit.
Although 80% of the population surveyed believed themselves to be fit, one-third of men and two-thirds of women were unable to continue walking at a moderately brisk pace (3mph) up a slight gradient (1 in 20) without becoming breathless, found it very demanding and had to slow down or stop.
Brisk walking on the level for several minutes constituted severe exertion for half the women over 55 years of age.
Whilst activity levels decline sharply with increasing age, some elderly people were found to be as fit or fitter than others half their age.
An active lifestyle is therefore very important for our health and well-being.
But, how much is enough? And, does it have to hurt?
The answers seems relatively simple –
- Aim for around 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every other day. This might include activities such as walking, gardening, cycling, swimming, dancing, organised keep fit classes and other recreational activities.
- The idea of ‘no pain, no gain, is really not true, unless you are involved in serious training for competitive sport. Try activities that will make you slightly breathless – like a brisk half-hour walk. You don’t even have to get changed!
For those who currently don’t take regular exercise, then begin with a few minutes of daily activity and gradually build up to 30 minutes.
Try to build regular physical activity into your life and make it part of the way you live.
Add life to your years and years to your life.