As I write my next book on running and weight loss, I’ve been thinking a lot about the effects running and not running have on our lives.
As large of a positive effect that running has on our health, not running has equally as large of a negative effect. A sedentary lifestyle affects your health so much that it’s considered one of the seven primary risk factors for heart disease. Lack of physical activity also increases the risk of certain types of cancer. Don’t exercise, and you simply have a greater chance of dying. That’s a scary thought because we usually associate bad health with the things we do, like smoking, eating high cholesterol and fatty foods, eating too much sugar and processed foods, drinking alcohol, and using recreational drugs. How many times are we told throughout our lives that smoking causes cancer? Everyone knows that. But we’re never told that not exercising causes cancer. We don’t usually think about the consequences of not doing something.
Research on the relationship between exercise and mortality risk has shown that inactive individuals had a 17 percent increased risk of all-cause mortality, while individuals who exercised for an average of 92 minutes per week (15 minutes per day) had a 14 percent reduced risk of all-cause mortality and had a three-year longer life expectancy. Furthermore, every additional 15 minutes of daily exercise beyond the minimum amount of 15 minutes per day further reduced all-cause mortality by four percent and all-cancer mortality by one percent. These benefits were applicable to both males and females of all age groups and to those with cardiovascular disease risks.
Just as physical activity produces unique cellular signals and physiological responses, so too does inactivity. For example, inactivity quickly engages signals that cause suppression of the enzyme lipoprotein lipase, which contributes to poor fat metabolism and contributes to weight gain and obesity. Conversely, running increases lipoprotein lipase enzyme activity, which enhances fat metabolism. By not exercising, we increase the likelihood of plenty of diseases and maladies, including heart disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes, and even atrophy of our brains. Think about that for a minute. In the absence of aerobic exercise, we cause illness and disease. Does running make us live longer? Well, I don’t know. It’s hard to say that something makes us live longer. Science can’t really tell. But there’s a good chance that it does. At the very least, running enhances the quality of the years you have left.
We always hear about the things we should stop doing or not do. We are told to stop smoking. We are told to stop drinking alcohol. We are told to stop eating foods with a high salt content or high fructose corn syrup or gluten or sugar. The many proponents of low-carb diets would have the public believe that carbohydrate is poison. Pasta kills us, we are told; so don’t eat it.
However, if you start something or do something that gives you pleasure and fulfills you, you automatically stop doing the things that don’t. And the things that cause pain or ill health in your life start to fade away. You don’t need to tell a runner to stop smoking or stop eating McDonald’s. A smoker will quickly stop smoking and a McDonald’s eater will quickly stop eating McDonald’s by becoming a runner. Running connects you to the things you should do to live a healthy life.
As we enter the final week of 2015, do something to connect you and your clients, athletes, and others to a healthy life.