A sedentary or inactive lifestyle is not a healthy choice for anyone but millions of people choose not to exercise or are too busy to do so. But is this storing up health problems for them in the future?
We look at 11 effects of not exercising your body to see what damage you may be doing to your current or future health. We examine the different conditions that can afflict anyone who doesn’t do any regular physical exercise.
1. Heart Disease
If you are not doing any exercise or any physical activity you are at risk of developing heart disease even if you have no other risk factors. Heart disease is a general term which covers various types of heart problems including coronary artery disease and heart attack.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US and lifestyle habits are one of the contributing factors. A lack of exercise or physical activity can raise the risk of heart disease particularly if it is combined with a diet that is high in saturated fats, salt and refined carbs.
For those with a sedentary job, not taking any exercise significantly increases the risk of heart disease such as a heart attack.
2. Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that affects your blood sugar levels. A lack of insulin means that your body cannot get the energy from glucose to send to the cells in your body. As a result the glucose stays in your blood and not enough reaches your cells.
Being overweight or obese is one of the leading causes of type 2 diabetes as well as a tendency toward an inactive lifestyle. Exercise helps to control blood sugar as well as weight and blood pressure.
A lack of exercise also increases the risk of nerve damage and heart disease, both of which also affect those with type 2 diabetes. Being over the age of 45 increases your chances of developing this kind of diabetes, so exercise becomes even more important.
3. High Blood Pressure
There are typically no symptoms when you have high blood pressure. You will normally only find out that you have a blood pressure problem following a visit to the doctor when they check it.
There are two types of high blood pressure, primary and secondary. Primary high blood pressure is the most common and develops as people get older. Secondary high blood pressure can either be caused by other medical conditions or certain medicines.
The effect on your heart from unchecked high blood pressure is that it has to work even harder which can lead to heart failure or heart attack. Not exercising increases your risk of developing high blood pressure and the health problems that go with it.
A lack of exercise can increase your chances of developing certain cancers including breast, uterine and colon cancer. As one of the most important things that you can do to improve your health, exercise is important in reducing your risk of cancer.
Obesity is one of the risk factors for colorectal cancer and the best way to prevent it is to control your weight. If you are not exercising it will be difficult to maintain a healthy weight and your risk of colorectal cancer will rise.
Most people associate breast cancer with a genetic predisposition, but obesity also plays a part in the risk factors for this type of cancer. Uterine cancer is also more common among women who are overweight or obese.
There are many different types of anxiety disorders including phobias, panic disorder, social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder or GAD.
Phobias and general anxiety disorder typically affect women more than men, but social anxiety disorder affects both genders equally. While there are certain personality traits that increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder a lack of exercise doesn’t help.
Exercise releases endorphins and serotonin both of which can help you to feel less stressed and more relaxed. Without exercise there is no natural release of these chemicals. More often than not people with anxiety disorders rely on medication to treat their symptoms.
A lack of physical activity can make feelings of anxiety more pronounced and can lead to depression if not addressed.
Being depressed is not the same as feeling a bit down, it is a serious medical condition. Millions of people around the world suffer from depression, and it has a serious impact on their lives and on that of their family and friends.
Most people will be treated for depression with medication called antidepressants which are used to stabilize their mood. A lack of exercise which leads to weight gain can add to the feelings of hopelessness and emptiness that a depressed person feels.
Without physical activity the body doesn’t release the endorphins and serotonin associated with exercise. Someone who is depressed lacks the initial motivation to begin exercising, and so they miss out on the positive benefits of exercise.
It goes without saying that not exercising can lead to weight gain and often obesity. Of course, a person’s diet is the primary cause of weight gain. However, without the physical activity to burn off the calories that are being consumed a person is likely to put on weight.
Obesity is not just being very overweight, it means that a person has too much body fat as opposed to weighing too much. Weight doesn’t just come from fat but also from muscle, bone, and water.
However, both terms mean that the person is heavier than what is considered healthy for their height. An inactive lifestyle coupled with an unhealthy diet can very easily lead to weight gain and eventually to obesity.
8. Increased Risk Of Falls
Inactivity tends to increase with age, although this doesn’t have to be the case, and can lead to real problems for the elderly. As we get older we are at greater risk of falls and when our bones begin to get brittle that can be serious.
Older people are at risk of falls for a variety of reasons including age related loss of muscle mass, issues with balance, and postural hypotension. Cognitive impairment and some types of dementia can also cause older adults to fall.
Not exercising may increase your chances of all these conditions. It is never too late to start exercising and there are lots of physical activities that older adults can do that are gentle and safe.
9. Impaired Sleep
Not exercising can have an impact on your sleep. Many studies have found that there is a correlation between regular exercise and better sleep. Across different age groups those who take part in physical activity on a regular basis are less likely to suffer from insomnia.
People who exercise are less likely to develop insomnia or sleep issues later in life. There is a complex issue here in that someone who is suffering from poor sleep doesn’t typically have the energy to exercise.
However, even moderate aerobic exercise like walking can help with sleep problems. A 30 minute session of exercise can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and can help you to sleep for longer.
10. Poor Bone & Muscle Health
A life of not exercising can lead to poor bone and muscle health. Both of these can have serious consequences, particularly later in life.
Inactivity causes a loss of bone according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. This can lead to osteoporosis which is a debilitating condition. For women this can happen soon after menopause while in men it happens in older age.
Muscle strength can decline when you do not exercise. This deconditioning of your muscles means they will weaken which can in turn cause mobility issues. Regular exercise retains muscle strength and quality but does not automatically retain muscle mass.
Maintaining bone and muscle health through exercise can prevent age-related disabilities. Exercise induced benefits to skeletal muscles delays the progression of multiple diseases.
11. Increased Risk Of Dementia
Not exercising your body can increase your risk of developing dementia later in life. Of all the lifestyle choices that you can make, choosing to exercise may be the best thing you can do to reduce your risk of getting dementia.
Aerobic exercise in particular is beneficial when contrasted with something like stretching and toning. The sooner in life you begin to regularly exercise the less likely you are to be affected by something like Alzheimer disease. Even later in life exercise can reduce the risk.
There are lots of ways that you can get active and exercise. It’s not necessary to join a gym and start lifting weights although if that’s what you want to do, go for it!
Simple aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging or swimming can improve your health and reduce your risk of developing the medical conditions listed above.
We hope that this guide to the effects of not exercising on your body has helped you and hopefully, motivated you.