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Is Society’s Lack Of Exercise Causing A Chronic Disease Epidemic?

By March 2, 2020March 5th, 2020No Comments

Humans didn’t always suffer from chronic diseases like we do today. If you look at our past human history and go back thousands of years, you’ll find very little to no heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or any other chronic disease. 

There has to be a reason why we are seeing more chronic disease today than we ever have before.  Chronic diseases are literally at epidemic proportions in our country, killing over 1.7 million Americans a year!

Yes, longer lifespans may play some role in the reason we are seeing more chronic diseases today.  People are living long enough to be able to develop a chronic disease, but we also know there were some people in history (even though the number was few) who made it to old age, and there is no evidence that exists suggesting they suffered from chronic diseases.

So, what were people doing then that we are not doing today?  One of the most obvious answers is that their activity levels were drastically higher in the past than they are today.  As a society, we’ve never been as sedentary as we are in present times.

How does lack of exercise affect the body?

Researchers at Harvard say that lack of exercise is as deadly as smoking. The study, published in The Lancet, found that worldwide, it leads to one in ten deaths or 5.3 million of the 57 million deaths globally.

The study was able to link the lack of exercise to several chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancer. Researchers estimate that a lack of exercise could be responsible for around 1 in 10 cases of heart disease (10.5%) and just under 1 in 5 cases (18.7%) of colon cancer in the U.K. (14)

          • Lack of exercise is a causal factor in 5.3 million of the 57 million deaths per year globally
          • Lack of exercise has commonly been linked to coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, as well as breast and colon cancer.
          • It’s responsible for 1 in 10 cases of heart disease and 1 in 5 cases of colon cancer.

Not only is overweight and obesity tied to a poor diet, but also one of the major effects of a lack of exercise.  There are various chronic health problems associated with overweight and obesity – diabetes, breathing issues, high blood pressure, and having a far greater risk of heart attack are just some of the problems.

An overall decline in brain function has been linked to lack of exercise as well.  Exercise helps to increase the flow of blood to the brain, while lack of exercise can lead to a decrease in the amount of blood flow to the brain.  A brain deprived of blood cannot function normally.  The brain can physically shrink due to a lack of blood supply, but research states that this ’shrinkage’ is avoidable and that mental ability can be enhanced by regular exercise.

Without adequate exercise, bones and muscles can become weak. This weakness can leave the body at a greater chance of injury as well as other chronic diseases such as arthritis and osteopenia/osteoporosis. Lack of exercise and weak bones can leave a person more prone to fractures and injuries to the knee and hip after a fall.

Even the chances of cancer are influenced by exercise!  Research in this field over many years has shown an increase in the likelihood of developing certain cancers from lack of exercise. 

Lack of exercise can cause:

          • Overweight and obesity
          • Heart disease
          • Diabetes
          • Cancer
          • Colon cancer
          • High blood pressure
          • Decline in brain function
          • Osteopenia and osteoporosis
          • And many other chronic diseases

No, just because you exercise does not mean you’ll become immune to cancer, but we do know that people who are more physically fit when they develop cancer have a far greater chance of surviving than those who had led a sedentary lifestyle. (15) So, there’s no downside to exercise.

Is it possible to over-exercise? 

Yes, but most people never have to worry about that. In the United States, we have far more people who under exercise than over-exercise. 

How much should you exercise?

For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends these exercise guidelines:

          • Aerobic activity – Get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during a week. Greater amounts of exercise will provide an even greater health benefit. But even small amounts of physical activity are helpful. Being active for short periods throughout the day can add up to provide health benefits.
          • Strength training. Do strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week. Aim to do a single set of each exercise, using a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions.

Dont miss the next article in this series as well be discussing another one of the possible causes of chronic diseases in our country. There’s no doubt, the American health care system is broken.  We must find A Better Way!


  1. National Council on Aging – Approximately 80% of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 77% have at least two. –
  2. Children’s Health Defense –
  3. An Empirical Study of Chronic Diseases in the United States: A Visual Analytics Approach to Public Health –
  4. World Health Organization – Top 10 Causes of Death –
  5. Nearly 7 in 10 Americans Take Prescription Drugs, Mayo Clinic, Olmsted Medical Center Find –
  6. World Health Organizations ranking of the worlds health systems 2000 –
  7. National Health Expenditures 2017 Highlights –
  8. How does health spending in the U.S. compare to other countries? –
  9. Western pattern diet –
  10. American adults are overweight or obese –
  11. 6 charts that show how much more Americans eat than they used to –
  12. How Much Sugar Do You Eat? You May Be Surprised! –
  13. How Does Too Much Sugar Affect Your Body? –
  14. Lack of exercise as ‘deadly’ as smoking –
  15. How Lack of Exercise Affects Health –
  16. Environmental Toxins and Your Health –
  17. Vaccine Excipient Summary –
  18. Tech Neck – How Technology Is Affecting Your Posture –
Tabor Smith

Author Tabor Smith

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