Physical inactivity has a HUGE impact on so many areas of our health. Today, we’ll look at the link between physical inactivity and cancer, cognitive function, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Unfortunately, physical inactivity causes many more health issues than this. It’s not too late to do something about it though!

Exercising each week has enormous health benefits:

  • 2 hours of walking per week reduces heart disease risk by up to 53%.

  • 3 hours of brisk walking reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 42%.

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), physical activity is the main cause in 27% of diabetes cases and 30% of heart disease cases.

Joining the dots between physical inactivity and cancer risk.

A large 2016 study concluded that exercise reduces the risk of 13 cancers. The risk of developing seven cancer types (colon, breast, and endometrial cancers along with esophageal, liver, stomach and kidney cancers) was 20 percent (or more) lower among the most active participants as compared with the least active.

* Most active = 7 hours a week of brisk walking or 2.5 hours a week of jogging.

** Least active = 20 minutes per week of brisk walking.  

Looking at all of the cancer sites together, the study calculated that higher levels of leisure-time physical activity was linked to a 7 percent lower risk of total cancer. This is after adjusting for age, sex, smoking and alcohol consumption.

Even those people with lower activity levels, such as those who do 2.5 hours a week of brisk walking (comparable to recommended minimum activity levels), still had notably lower cancer risk, even if it was not quite as low as those who did more activity.

In addition to these findings, a 2003 study found that physically active men and women exhibited a 30%–40% reduction in the relative risk of colon cancer, and physically active women a 20%–30% reduction in the risk of breast cancer compared with their inactive counterparts.

Joining the dots between physical inactivity and cognitive function.

On the left, is your brain after 20 minutes of sitting. The brain on the right shows what is going on after 20 minutes of exercise, indicating heightened attention and faster information processing.

On the left, is your brain after 20 minutes of sitting. The brain on the right shows what is going on after 20 minutes of exercise, indicating heightened attention and faster information processing.

The part of the brain that responds strongly to aerobic exercise is the hippocampus. Studies show that this brain structure grows as people get fitter. Since the hippocampus is at the core of the brain’s learning and memory systems, this finding can partly explain the memory-boosting effects of improved cardiovascular fitness.

Studies on men and women aged 60 to 80 found that taking a short walk three times a week increased the size of brain regions linked to planning and memory over the course of a year. The prefrontal cortex and hippocampus increased in size by only 2% or 3%, but that was enough to offset the steady shrinkage doctors expected to see over the same period. "It may sound like a modest amount but that's actually like reversing the age clock by about one to two years," said Professor Kirk Erickson, a neuroscientist at the University of Pittsburgh.

The prefrontal cortex is involved in a lot of higher-level cognitive functions and the hippocampus is involved in memory formation. And when it shrinks, it leads to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, regular physical exercise can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50 percent.

Joining the dots between physical activity and type 2 Diabetes.

Physical activity is an important part of your daily maintenance of blood sugar levels. In fact, a single bout of moderate exercise can improve the way the body regulates blood glucose levels! However, becoming inactive interrupts this process. Physical activity has a direct impact on health issues that are preventable.

In a study, activity levels and diets of healthy and moderately active adults were monitored. Participants then reduced their physical activity levels by 50% for 3 days while continuing with/replicating the diet they consumed when they were active. Continuous glucose monitors worn by the subjects during the period of inactivity showed significantly raised glucose levels.

Joining the dots between physical inactivity and high blood pressure.

Regular exercise makes your heart stronger, which means it can pump more blood with less effort! If your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump, the force on your arteries decreases – which lowers your blood pressure.

Becoming more active can lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by an average of 4-9mm Hg. That’s as effective as some blood pressure medications!

Is it time to spread awareness about the power of physical activity at your workplace? Contact us today to discuss what would suit your workplace logistics and needs best. We’re here to help!