As a Naturopath, I tend to see a portion of the population that is pretty healthy – or at least has a keen interest in getting pretty healthy.  People come to me because they want to treat the root cause of their illness and are invested in disease prevention.   As a result, I see a segment of the population that is generally healthier than average.  Most of my patients are non-smokers, they eat well most of the time and exercise regularly.

But every once in a while I come across an exercise resistant patient.   These wonderful people eat well, take the vitamins I recommend, go to bed on time, etc, but they can’t seem to stick to an exercise regimen.  As a life-long exerciser, I don’t get it.  There is no universally better therapy for every health concern than exercise.  Want to lose weight?  Exercise.  Lower cholesterol and blood pressure?  Exercise.  Sleep better?  Exercise.  Increase your sex drive?  Exercise.  Improve constipation?  Exercise.  Beat depression and anxiety? Exercise.  Cure type 2 diabetes?  Exercise.  Shall I go on?  As if you needed another reason, how about living years longer?

A recent study recently published in PLOS journal (an open access peer reviewed journal) reviewed the exercise habits and longevity of over 600,000 people (they call this kind of study MAMMOTH).  The results were astonishing.  A minimal amount of activity such as brisk walking for 75 minutes/week prolonged life expectancy after age 40 by 1.8 years.  At the World Health Organizations recommended activity level of 150 to 299 minutes of brisk walking per week, the increase in life expectancy was 4.2yrs.  This number held steady over all body mass index levels.  So basically it doesn’t matter what your size, even minimal exercise will increase life expectancy.  But does inactivity shorten your life?  At the most extreme, a sedentary lifestyle and high BMI could result in the same lifespan as a long term smoker – an activity which on average decreases your life span by 10 years.

Seems to me that inactivity is downright dangerous.

So what is holding you back from doing some daily activity?  Most people tell me that they don’t have time.  I understand that we suffer from chronic overwork and over-scheduling in this culture, but I would argue that we also suffer from chronic time wasting activities.  If you don’t have time to exercise, I challenge you to give up leisure screening for 30 days (no tv, movies, facebook etc.) and see how much time you have.  Exercise is a choice.  Choose to spend your leisure time moving your body and you might find you spend less time at your Naturopath’s office!