Physical inactivity is a common cause for a slew of conditions and ailments, and one doctor is saying that's reason enough to classify it as its own medical condition.
Writing in the Journal of Physiology, Dr. Michael Joyner makes the argument that physical inactivity is a major root cause of a number of serious conditions, and medicalizing it would push medical professionals to treat it with more seriousness, rather than an unfortunate habit some people have.
Joyner highlighted a few conditions caused by physical inactivity, in addition to obesity, diabetes, hypertension and some forms of cancer:
That's on top of the fact that the less activity a person gets, the harder it becomes to exercise: Joyner points out that a person who hasn't exercised for a long time will become deconditioned, and his or her heart rate will rise to potentially dangerous levels when he or she does try to exercise again. That person will also face atrophied bones and muscles and a decrease in blood volume.
Add that to the sheer willpower it generally takes to even muster up the energy to work out, and it would seem folks who have a habit of inactivity are stuck in a self-perpetuating, self-destructive cycle.
Joyner suggests that thinking of physical inactivity as its own medical issue – one that can be a catalyst for other serious conditions and diseases – would lead to prescriptions of exercise, something more formal than "You should get some exercise."
The prognosis for the sedentary certainly isn't bright: Researchers recently said physical inactivity is a global pandemic, and causes about as many premature deaths as smoking does every year. (Take 2008, for example, when TIME says about 5.3 million deaths worldwide could be linked attributed to inactivity.)
HealthDay reports that one-third of all the world's adults – that's around 1.5 billion people – are at 20 to 30 percent greater risk of a disease because of the lack of physical activity in their lives.
Note that physical activity doesn't mean obsessively pumping iron and hopping on the Pilates train – rather, it means exactly what it says: moving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that means:
– 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day for kids (up to 17 years old)
– 150 minutes or more of moderate aerobic exercise (like walking) every week and weight training that works on all the major muscle groups at least two days every week for adults
Photo by Jennifer C. via Flickr Creative Commons.