There are two numbers we’ve been struck by this week, numbers that symbolize what science taught us about fitness throughout our country in 2016.
The first is 42 percent.
According to a study published in July, risk for premature death rises 42% when we are out of shape. Researchers found that poor physical fitness turned out to be unhealthier even than high blood pressure or poor cholesterol profiles, and it may be second only to smoking as the highest risk factor for premature death. These findings raise the possibility that by strengthening the body and prioritizing aerobic activity, we can help lower the risk of a variety of chronic diseases.
The second number is $2,500.
A wonderfully pragmatic study released in September explained how $2,500 is the amount of money we would likely save annually on medical costs related to heart disease if we walked for just 30 minutes most days. (For more on MANY the benefits of walking, check out this post from last November.)
These findings came from an analysis of 26,239 men and women published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, and because it focused only on expenses related to cardiovascular disease, the actual annual cost savings from being physically active could be substantially higher than $2,500. Surely this is not new information, as experts have known for some time that inactivity is expensive at the public health level. And most of us are keenly aware that sedentary people are more likely to develop a number of diseases.
Of course there were other lessons in last year’s exercise research. For example, we learned how exercise prompts muscles to release substances that wind up changing the structure and function of the brain. And another study found that fat cells are likewise transformed by exercise. And did you know that proper aerobic activity can alter the composition of gut microbes in ways that aid in weight control over a person’s life span?
The benefits of being active do seem to be nearly incalculable.
All of these studies from in 2016 serve as a powerful reminder that being inactive can potentially cost us years from our lives and many thousands of dollars from our wallets. These studies continue to prove how exercise of almost any amount can substantially lower the risk of depression, muscle wasting, at least 13 types of cancer, and seasonal flus and colds.
As we begin a new year, we encourage you to consider the decidedly calculable advantages of being active, including a 42% increased risk of dying too young if you are unfit and the $2,500 in annual savings potentially enjoyed by those who get out and walk or run.
Will you join us in walking, running and otherwise moving in 2017?