What Happens If We Don’t Exercise?

The CDC recommends 150 minutes of light to moderate exercise per week if you want to stay healthy. But the sad reality is that less than 5% of adults in the U.S. exercise for 30 minutes a day. Long periods of physical inactivity can cause health problems, and here are just some of the common ones:

1. Cognitive Decline

As you get older, your brain gets weaker and your memory will begin to falter. Although this usually starts in your 40s, there’s evidence that show cognitive decline among people in their 30s. Dr. Scott McGinnis published an article on the Harvard Health Blog stated that regular exercise over a period of 6-12 months has been associated with “an increase in the volume of selected brain regions.”

When you exercise, the parts of your brain that deals with thinking (prefrontal cortex) and memory (medial temporal cortex) are enhanced. Exercise has also been found to enlarge the brain’s hippocampus which helps you stay sharp as you get older.

2. Heart Disease

The heart is also a muscle and just like all the muscles in your body, it benefits from exercise. The British Heart Foundation said that exercising brings oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. On the other hand, being inactive leads to fat buildup in the arteries that can lead to increased risk for stroke and heart attack.

3. Mental Health Issues

In a 2018 study published in The Lancet Psychiatry, it was found that people who exercised had a 43% fewer “bad days” compared to those who did not exercise. Adam Fry of the Icahn School of Medicine also revealed that even one hour of exercise weekly can lower the risk of depressive symptoms and depression.

4. Type 2 Diabetes

According to the WHO, there are 422 million people who have diabetes worldwide. Of this number, 1.6 million die from diabetes-related causes.  Type 2 diabetes prevents your body from producing insulin. With exercise, you can manage insulin levels.

5. Cancer

The National Cancer Institute has found that there is an increased risk of cancer among people who don’t exercise. On the other hand, regular exercise can offer benefits such as lowering sex hormone levels (certain hormones can increase the likelihood of colon and breast cancer), increase metabolism, reduce inflammation, and prevent obesity which are also factors that may potentially lead to cancer.

6. Weak Muscles

When you don’t exercise, you lose muscle mass and this is especially true as you get older. In fact, a study published in the European Journal of Applied Psychology published in 2012, it was found that people who often exercise (athletes and non-athletes) but stop exercising for 3 weeks will lose muscle. Inactivity causes rapid loss of muscle mass and it’s a lot harder to regain muscle after you have lost it. Long periods of physical inactivity leads to muscle atrophy because the body will break down muscle when it realizes it’s not being used so as to conserve energy.

7. Weak Bones

Exercise can boost bone mineral density and exercising becomes increasingly important for people over 20 years old because bone loss begins around this age.

Weight-bearing exercises, resistance training and exercises that involve jumping can lead to an increase in bone mass. High-impact exercises like running, aerobics, weight-training, and tennis have been found to prevent osteoporosis. However it is recommended that you introduce rigorous workouts slowly and gradually in order to prevent injury.

8. Premature Death

Having a sedentary lifestyle has long been associated with early death. One study found that inactivity is associated with a 9% increased risk of premature death.

There are many other things that could happen to you if you don’t exercise. For example, you could gain weight. This is especially true if you tend to eat unhealthy and fatty foods. If you consume more calories than what your body needs, you will end up gaining weight and this can lead to a host of other problems.

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