A Weighty Issue: Why Being Inactive May Be Worse Than Being Overweight

We have all heard the myriad of warnings and advice about how too much weight and not enough exercising are two of the biggest health risks facing us today. But are they equally risky or could one of them be worse than the other? It would be easy to assume that a person with less weight is healthier, but that may not be true. A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds that inactivity creates adverse health effects in everybody. In fact, the researchers behind the study say that being inactive has the potential of being twice as dangerous as carrying too much weight. And they estimated that if people were more active overall, it would reduce twice the number of deaths than eradicating obesity. So even if someone appears “fit” they may not be getting the movement that their body needs to stay healthy.

What Does the Research Say?

Researchers at the University of Cambridge in the UK compared several aspects of more than 330,000 men and women over 12 years. By keeping track of body-mass indexes, waist circumferences, physical activity levels, and other health data of their subjects, they were able to observe a trend. The research group saw that the greatest reduction in mortality risk was between those who were inactive and those who were just moderately active. The small change in the amount of movement each day made all the difference.

"Physical activity has numerous positive effects on blood pressure, glucose metabolism, insulin sensitivity, blood lipids, and so on, regardless of being overweight," says lead study author Ulf Ekelund. In other words, getting off your butt is the more effective way to get all of those health markers in check, which can in turn help you to live longer. Men especially should take heed, Ekelund adds. "Men tend to die at an earlier age than women and usually have larger waistlines," he says. "Thus, regular physical activity — and the more of it the better — is one of the best medical treatments you can get, without any side effects."

How to Get Moving

So what does this mean for you? Well the good news is that you do not have to go out and start training for a marathon to be considered active. A few simple changes can give you a lot of benefits. 3.5 hours of physical activity per week makes you moderately active and can slash your health risks by 30 percent. A brisk 20-minute walk is all you need to meet that goal! Taking the stairs up and down when you need to change floors at work can do that for you. So can taking a few minutes every few hours between meetings to walk a few loops around the office. Maybe an office is not part of your daily setting? Not to worry, there are still plenty of ways to improve your cardiovascular health. Here are a few other ways to get a bit more exercise during your daily routine:

  • Do housework yourself instead of hiring or asking someone else to do it.
  • Work in the garden or mow the grass. Using a riding mower does not count! Rake leaves, prune, dig and pick up trash.
  • Go out for a short walk before breakfast, after dinner or both! Start with 5-10 minutes and work up to 30 minutes.
  • Walk or bike to the corner store instead of driving.
  • When walking, pick up the pace from leisurely to brisk. Choose a hilly route.
  • When watching TV, sit up instead of lying on the sofa. Or stretch. Better yet, spend a few minutes pedaling on your stationary bicycle while watching TV. Throw away your video remote control.
  • Stand up while talking on the telephone.
  • Walk the dog.
  • Park farther away at the shopping mall and walk the extra distance. Wear your walking shoes and sneak in an extra lap or two around the mall.
  • Stretch to reach items in high places and squat or bend to look at items at floor level.
  • Another way to stay fit? Try gathering some home exercise equipment! It is usually convenient, comfortable and safe to workout at home. And it allows your children, friends, or family to see you being active, which sets a good example for them. You can combine exercise with other activities, such as watching TV. If you buy exercise equipment, it's a one-time expense and other family members can use it. You may even consider pooling the money that you and a few friends would have spent on a gym membership and put it into purchasing your home gym equipment. It is easy to have short bouts of activity several times a day if the workout machines and weights are right there at your disposal, instead of taking time to drive out to a gym or recreation center.

    Maybe foot pain has been stopping you from enjoying regular activities? Having issues with your feet can put a fast stop to regular exercise. A great way to help reduce your pain and correct some of the issues associated with common foot problems like plantar fasciitis is to get new shoes that can provide support and cushion your feet. That is where KURU’s line of footwear comes in. They are designed to fit your foot more naturally and give you the comfort you crave while allowing your feet to recover. And with our slightly rockered sole, you will almost glide through your daily walking routine. With the KURUSOLE™ technology to help carry you, you will feel like you are walking on clouds and can take on any challenge!