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Not Exercising Is Worse for You Than Smoking, Study Says

Written by Dr. Joseph Mercola

Unless you’re an avid exerciser who already knows the feel-good benefits of just getting up out of your seat and moving, you may be surprised to learn that not getting regular exercise can be worse for you than smoking.

As reported by Metro, Cleveland researchers looking retrospectively at the deaths of 122,007 patients show that those with a sedentary lifestyle were 500 percent more likely to die than those who exercised — three times the risk posed by smoking. Cardiorespiratory and high aerobic fitness were associated with the greatest survival.

If ever there were a time to repeat the mantra “sit less now or risk not walking later,” this may be the time. We all know smoking is bad for you, and that knowledge has helped countless people end their smoking habit. But it seems like not many people are aware that prolonged sitting promotes multiple challenging health conditions, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, certain cancers and lower back pain.

Or, more specifically, how many of us are aware that simply watching TV for extended periods may increase your risk for reduced mobility as you age? The bottom line is biological effects associated with prolonged sitting are an independent risk factor for many health conditions as well as early death. Often referred to as the "sitting disease," it’s the result of sitting for prolonged periods in front of a computer screen, texting, commuting and shopping online.

Luckily, nobody has to wait on another study to show the importance of getting up, moving around and incorporating an exercise program into your life. Even better, you don’t have to instantly be a marathon runner to lengthen your life with exercise; even short bursts can decrease your risk of death.

The more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity you get, the lower your likelihood of death, regardless of whether that activity is done in bouts lasting 10 minutes or longer in continuous sessions. If you’re a couch potato now, begin by just getting up and walking around — even if you’re an office worker all day long, there are ways to do this; for example, standing to work.

Beyond that, I believe an ideal approach focuses on balance and variety. So, while daily nonexercise movement lays the foundation for good health, more intense exercise is needed to really optimize physical fitness and maximize the health benefits you can get from all the other positive lifestyle strategies you engage in.

One way to maximize your movement in the least amount of time is to engage in high-intensity interval training (HIIT). My favorite form of this is the Nitric Oxide Dump, a four-minute exercise that can improve mitochondrial health and slow down age-related muscle decline.

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