Regular exercise can help protect you from heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, noninsulin-dependent diabetes, obesity, back pain, osteoporosis, and can improve your mood and help you to better manage stress. For the greatest overall health benefits, experts recommend that you do 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic activity three or more times a week and some type of muscle strengthening activity and stretching at least twice a week. Lack of exercise is causing as many deaths around the world as smoking.There’s nothing wrong with going to the gym of course, but the aim is to encourage everyone to build physical activity into their daily lives, such as by walking, cycling, swimming, gardening or doing any sport they enjoy.So rather than stressing the health benefits of exercise, Lancet researchers have opted to show the harm caused by inactivity. They estimate lack of exercise is responsible for about 5.3m deaths a year – about the same number as smoking. The outlook for the next generation seems bleak. A staggering four out of five 13-15 year olds globally do not do the recommended 60 minutes of activity every day. The researchers say the problem of inactivity has reached pandemic levels, with far-reaching health, economic, environmental and social consequences. They call for a radical re-think in how to deal with the issue. Regular physical activity that is performed on most days of the week reduces the risk of developing or dying from some of the leading causes of illness and death. For instance, it is well known that exercise:

  • Reduces the risk of dying prematurely.
  • Reduces the risk of dying prematurely from heart disease.
  • Reduces the risk of developing diabetes.
  • Reduces the risk of developing high blood pressure.
  • Helps reduce blood pressure in people who already have high blood pressure.
  • Reduces the risk of developing colon cancer.
  • Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety.
  • Helps control weight.
  • Helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints.
  • Helps older adults become stronger and better able to move about without falling.
  • Promotes psychological well-being.

Heart Disease and Stroke. Daily physical activity can help prevent heart disease and stroke by strengthening your heart muscle, lowering your blood pressure, raising your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels (good cholesterol) and lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels (bad cholesterol), improving blood flow, and increasing your heart’s working capacity. High Blood Pressure. Regular physical activity can reduce blood pressure in those with high blood pressure levels. Physical activity also reduces body fatness, which is associated with high blood pressure. Noninsulin-Dependent Diabetes. By reducing body fatness, physical activity can help to prevent and control this type of diabetes. Obesity. Physical activity helps to reduce body fat by building or preserving muscle mass and improving the body’s ability to use calories. When physical activity is combined with proper nutrition, it can help control weight and prevent obesity, a major risk factor for many diseases. Back Pain. By increasing muscle strength and endurance and improving flexibility and posture, regular exercise helps to prevent back pain. Osteoporosis. Regular weight-bearing exercise promotes bone formation and may prevent many forms of bone loss associated with aging. Psychological Effects. Regular physical activity can improve your mood and the way you feel about yourself. Researchers also have found that exercise is likely to reduce depression and anxiety and help you to better manage stress.


Marc Hamilton Ph.D., a professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Missouri in Columbia, has labeled this area of study as “inactivity physiology”. “The existing data, by numerous studies, are starting to show that the rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity are doubled and sometimes tripled in people who sit a lot,” says Hamilton, suggesting that “if you can perform a behavior while sitting or standing I would choose standing”. In 2005, James A. Levine, an obesity specialist at Mayo Clinic, pioneered the way for research on the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle by publishing an article in Science magazine. Levine’s conclusion was that “Any extended sitting – such as behind a desk at work or behind a wheel – can be harmful”. Levine has even gone as far as labeling sitting as “the disease of our time”.A sedentary lifestyle is a type of lifestyle with no or irregular physical activity. A person who lives a sedentary lifestyle may colloquially be known as a couch potato. It is commonly found in both the developed and developing world. Sedentary activities include sitting, reading, watching television, playing video games, and computer use for much of the day with little or no vigorous physical exercise. A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to many preventable causes of death. Screen time is the amount of time a person spends watching a screen such as a television, computer monitor, or mobile device. Excessive screen time is linked to negative health consequences.

Overcoming a sedentary Lifestyle

Many of us do not have enough time for exercise. Not to worry, just build enough activity into your normal daily routine vis:

  1. If possible, walk or bike to work
  2. Park your car far away and complete the trip on foot.
  3. Take the stairs instead of elevators
  4. Take a short walk-break at work
  5. Do your own yard work
  6. Instead of allowing the kids to play video games all day, take them out and throw the ball around. It’s fun. It’s bonding.
  7. Put on your favorite music and dance
  8. While watching TV, pace or stretch
  9. Occassionally neglect the call bell or intercom and walk to your secretary or colleague
  10. Choose active entertainment over passive entertainment
  11. Choose active vacations
  12. For married couples increase your sex frequency.

Dr Odunsi is a consultant Orthopaedic surgeon and the Medical Director of Faith Specialist Hospital, Housing Estate Ota. Send feedback and correspondent to, or 08033977497