The Price of Inactivity

November 14, 2005

The Price of Inactivity 

 Competency #4  ACTIVITY                            Reference: New England Journal of Medicine in 2002, Vol 346, p 393; Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 35: 1823. 2003 

 As we try to eat right, we are influenced by what we know to be "good food" and how it affects our metabolism.  Our bodies, like well-tuned engines, need to be given the right fuel and need to have something to do with that fuel.   Like a car that sits in a garage on idle, our bodies need to get workouts to be optimally healthy.  

As we settle in for our lovely Thanksgiving dinners, here are two reasons you should go for a walk sometime this weekend too. 

 1.  Diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes is what we get when we are a bit overweight with more in the middle, a bit of high triglycerides and hypertension on the side.  We call that the "metabolic" syndrome.  At the cellular level, we know that we are inducing inflammation with that state.  But rather than call it the "metabolic syndrome", perhaps we should call it the "couch potato syndrome" or the "inactivity syndrome". We now know that insulin sensitivity is directly and immediately affected by exercise.  As you start to move, you have the immediate effect of your cells becoming more sensitive to insulin's effects.  Your sugar comes down, right away!  In a study from 2003 in JAMA from the Harvard School of Public Health looking at 50,000 nurses: every 2 hours a day of watching TV turns into a 14% increase in getting diabetes.  Every 2 hours of work a day sitting at a desk adds a 7% risk.  Every hour of brisk walking a day reduces your diabetes risk by 34%. In the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002, (Vol 346, p 393), pre-diabetics with blood glucoses in the high but not quite diabetic range who exercised for 2.5 hours a week and lost 7% of their weight had their future risk of developing diabetes drop by 58%. 

 2.  Reduce Risk of CANCER by exercise.  The data is in.  Colon cancer, down by 40%, breast cancer, down by 20% with 60 minutes of aerobic activity a day.  Those are two common cancers so it's possible to get the research on them.  But that data is in:  (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 35: 1823. 2003) Winter is a great time to walk.  The air is invigorating.  The garden is asleep.  The TV is full of empty promise.  Get out there and walk. 

 WWW: What Will Work for me?  Walking, any time counts.  I’m trying to bundle up and get outdoors.  My family has always used the language, “Have to get some air!”.  It’s not just the air.  It’s the muscles and the exercise.  Two and a half hours a week is pretty easy.  That’s just 15 minutes, twice a day, just five days of the week.

This column was written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI. (262-784-5300)