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Physical Inactivity

Of all the risk factors, this is the most fun to deal with. If you have become a couch potato, you are going to enjoy getting active. Our bodies were designed to move, and if we don’t use them, we lose them. What did you enjoy doing as a child? Do it again, bicycle, dance, walk, sports are all fun. Reward your hard work with play, and ask a child to join you. When you find yourself laughing you will understand why this is so good for you and your health.

Prevalence (based on leisure-time physical activity)

  • In 2000-01, data from the CDC showed that 54.6 percent of Americans age 18 or older were not active enough to meet physical activity recommendations.
  • In 1997-98, 38.3 percent of Americans age 18 or older reported no physical activity. 61.7 percent engaged in at least some physical activity. 22.7 percent engaged in light-moderate physical activity at least 5 times per week.
  • 31.3 percent of U.S. adults age 18 and older engaged in regular leisure-time activity.
  • For age groups 18-24 and 25-64, women were less likely than men to engage in regular leisure-time physical activity.
  • The relative risk of CHD associated with physical inactivity ranges 1.5 to 2.4, an increase in risk comparable to that observed for high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure or cigarette smoking.
  • By the age of 16, 31 percent of white girls and 56 percent of black girls report no habitual leisure-time activity.
  • Physical inactivity is more prevalent among women than men, among blacks and Hispanics than whites, among older than younger adults and among the less affluent than the more affluent.
  • A recent study of over 72,000 female nurses indicates that moderate-intensity physical activity such as walking is associated with a substantial reduction in risk of total and ischemic stoke.


  • According to the Center for Disease Control, the annual cost for diseases associated with physical inactivity is $76 billion dollars.

What Can You Do?

Finding ways to add physical activity into your normal life is the secret. Here are ways you can achieve that. Of course, don’t begin doing any new physical activity unless your physician has told you it is all right for you. Each of us begins at a different point, but all of us can improve our health with activity.

At Home:

  • Do housework yourself instead of hiring someone else to do it.
  • Work in the garden or mow the grass. Using a riding mower doesn’t count! Rake leaves, prune, dig and pick up trash.
  • Go out for a short walk before breakfast, after dinner or both! Start with 5 or 10 minutes walks and work up to 30 minutes.
  • Walk or bike to the store instead of driving.
  • When you do drive park as far from the entrance as you can.
  • When walking pick up the pace from leisurely to brisk. Choose a route that has a hill on it.
  • When watching TV, sit up instead of lying on the sofa. When a commercial comes on, get down on the floor and do some exercise. You’ll be surprised how much exercise you can get in that way.
  • Purchase an exercise tape, and then use it.
  • Stand up while on the telephone.
  • Keep exercise equipment repaired and use it. Just a set of 3-pound hand weights can make a difference.

At the Office:

  • Brainstorm project ideas with a co-worker while taking a walk.
  • Walk down the hall to speak to someone rather than phoning.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Stay in hotels with fitness centers, and use them.
  • Join a recreation league at your company. Don’t have one, organize it.
  • Join a fitness center near your work and go either before or after work.
  • Schedule exercise time and treat it like any other appointment.
Success Stories - Physical Inactivity

David, age 34
I have one of those "weeble" bodies. You remember weebles, they wobble but they don’t fall down. At 5 ft. 7 in. tall and 200 pounds, I wasn’t going to blow over in a windstorm. I wasn’t always like this. When I was a kid, I think I was skinny. But, when I grew up and began living on my own I didn’t always make the best food choices. Something quick and fast after a hard day at work was just fine. Double fries always seemed a good idea. Before long, I had what my girl friend called "that happy Buddha" look. For those of you who aren’t up on your Buddhas, the happy Buddha has a huge belly which if you rub you get good luck. She may have thought it was cute, but I was ashamed of the way it looked. But, dieting just wasn’t for me. So, I joined a gym. I went every night after work and spent 2 hours. At first, it was terribly difficult. But then like magic I found myself anxious to go. I worked with a trainer who showed me which machines were best for my body issues. I walked the treadmills, and even added swimming to my regime. I only did the exercises I enjoyed, but I did them often.

Before I knew what had happened, I found myself making better food choices and walking up the stairs rather than riding the elevator. My entire mind set began to change as my stomach flattened. I couldn’t have done it alone, I needed the help of the trained professionals, but together we did it. Now, my girl friend jokes that she always knows where to look for me. I am the one in front of the mirror. It is good not to be afraid to see one’s reflection. I am proud of what I have accomplished. I didn’t get any taller, but with 50 pounds off my frame, I sure look better.

Fran, age 83
I saw on television that muscles never get old. They said that muscles can grow and become strong after years of being weak and flabby. Age just doesn’t matter to a muscle. Now, that is too good to be ignored. When you get old you worry all the time about balance and strength because if you fall over you can die. I had always been active both in mind and body. I wasn’t going to accept getting old and weak. You can’t do anything about the birthdays, but you can do something about the effects of age.

I got a flyer in the mail about a local hospital that was offering classes in strength and yoga. They were inexpensive and conveniently located and they were for Seniors. I couldn’t resist the opportunity. Just two hours a week was all the commitment it required. I had the time. I was surely the oldest person at the first class. The instructor was kind and understood that we were not as flexible as a younger class might be. She worked with each one of us to achieve our goals, not hers. That is important. Make your own goals before exercising. Since any movement is better than no movement, you can’t be wrong. Yoga is such a wonderful exercise because it relaxes the body while it works it. I couldn’t wait to get to each class to learn new moves. No exercise was difficult, each just required becoming aware of a new set of body muscles. It didn’t take long until we had built up quite a workout. I found that taking the time to repeat the exercises each day at home was exhilarating.

My husband watched and then at 85 he joined me on the floor and we did them together. Who would have thought at our age we would be rolling around on the floor like a couple of kids. Sometimes we laughed at ourselves, but we found that was a good exercise too. Each session always ends with a breathless kiss. Yoga works for us. Even if you are confined to a bed, you can still do yoga. We find ourselves eating yogurt and celery and rewarding our exercise program with a walk around the neighborhood. It is so true that if you start doing something good for your body, your body will reward you with a better attitude. The best motivator of all is adding music to our yoga routine. We even found ourselves dancing in the kitchen.