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Exercise is the Only Miracle Drug

Physical inactivity has become as deadly as smoking cigarettes. According to a recent study published in the journal Lancet, an estimated 5.3 million deaths will be attributed to physical inactivity compared to 5 million deaths caused by cigarettes. This headline sparked media attention worldwide – the dangers of physical inactivity have created a global health crisis.

Physical inactivity and obesity pose a serious threat to the health of Americans, and both are having a particularly deadly impact on kids as obesity rates climb to about 30 percent of all children according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

The good news is that fighting this epidemic is one of the easiest and cheapest public health crises to fight. The easiest solution is to get moving. Families can especially play an important role in promoting exercise as a tool for prevention and cardiovascular health. This guide can help you maximize your activities to benefit you and your children.

 Pandemic of Inactivity

Concerns over inactivity have risen to the level of a pandemic as the risks and costs associated have grown in severity.

A recent report by a group of experts from more than 70 organizations, including Nike and the American College of Sports Medicine, found that Americans will exert nearly the same amount of energy in a week than if they slept 24 hours in every day. It represents a new low for a health crisis that continues to get worse every year.

Inactivity is linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases such as stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity and coronary heart disease. Obesity is also linked to higher blood pressure and cholesterol. The AHA found that other diseases related to obesity include breast cancer, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, end-stage renal disease, liver disease, low back pain, renal cell cancer, obstructive sleep apnea and urinary incontinence.

The costs are not just borne out in health concerns, but also as a financial disaster. The study found that the economic cost of inactivity totaled more than $20 billion in the US, China, India and UK in 2008. An obese employee costs an employer an additional $460 to $2,500 in medical costs and sick days per year, according to the AHA.

Part of the crisis was created by a transition among many people to a more sedentary lifestyle. People are less active today because of technology, better transportation options and a decrease in physically active jobs, according to the AHA.

Despite these challenges getting up and getting active is the easiest and most fun way to counteract the dangers of inactivity and to really improve your health.

 The Importance of Excercise

It is well-known that exercise is a great tool to control weight, increase quality of life, lower risk for disease and increase energy. But many people underestimate the comprehensive benefits of exercise on areas of life such as intellectual, social and financial capital. The Designed to Move report determined exercise can improve many areas including academic performance; job productivity and performance; leadership; self-control, and self confidence.

Exercise as Prevention

Both the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and AHA recommend that all adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity and at least two muscle-strengthening activities per week. An easy way to incorporate exercise into your weekly routine is to allocate 30 minutes five times a week.

Moderate activity is described by the CDC as activity that leads you to raise your heart rate and break a sweat, Moderate activity could include a brisk walk, riding a bike, playing doubles tennis or pushing a lawnmower.

If you choose more strenuous activity such as jogging, swimming laps or playing basketball, you can consider 1 minute of vigorous-intensity activity to be about the same as 2 minutes of moderate-intensity activity. Remember that vigorous activity should mean you are breathing hard and fast – you shouldn’t be able to say more than a few words before needing to catch your breath.

Muscle-strengthening activities could include lifting weights, using resistance bands, yoga or heavy yardwork. You can work on your muscles at home or the gym using this guide of free videos.

 Get Active with your Kids

One of the most fun ways to break a sweat is playing with children. Play a sport together such as soccer, basketball or tag outside. Play with a jump rope or hula hoop, and then make it a contest to see who can last the longest.

Use exercise as an opportunity to explore the outdoors in your community or around the area you live in.

    • Go on a hike
    • Ride bikes to a nearby park
    • Go for a swim as a family

Look into completing a run or walk as part of a charity event. There are hundreds of events to support worldwide that can also provide motivation to get in shape for a good cause. Here are a few:

    • Heart Walk, sponsored by the AHA, hosts events around the county to support heart health.
    • Walk to Cure Diabetes sponsored by a number of organizations, and supporting over 200 events around the country.
    • Relay for life supports cancer research and awareness.

Find a time in your daily routine that you can replace with an activity. Exchange watching television for a brisk walk with family members or walking the dog. Consider signing up for a recreational league in your community. There are numerous organizations who offer sports from kick ball to softball and soccer.

Make exercise a fun activity that you do together as a family or with friends. Beyond being a physical essential, it is especially important that children grow up developing healthy life habits; these same kids will represent the future of healthy living.

Exercising together can be an important way to bond with each other, and is always a good way to relieve the stress and tension created from the demands of school and work. Make it a priority in your schedule and your kids will make exercise a part of their life.

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