Little to no exercise increases your risk of getting noncommunicable diseases such as depression and dementia, according to the study’s analysis of data from 168 countries. The study published Monday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Physical inactivity is defined as not “doing at least 150min of moderate-intensity, or 75min of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week or any equivalent combination of the two,” according to the report.
If you don’t get enough exercise, your chance of getting hypertension could increase by 1.6% and dementia could increase by 8.1%, the researchers found.
The study also took note of the income levels of each county (rated as low, middle or high) and found that as the income increases, so does physical inactivity.
This could be attributed to the increase in amenities people have access to, said study author Peter Katzmarzyk, professor and associate executive director for population and public health sciences at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
“Access to vehicles goes up, active transportation goes down, and access and use of devices go way up,” Katzmarzyk said.
Governments need to invest in infrastructure, she said, such as walking and cycling areas as well as public open spaces so people can enjoy being outside.
Ways to increase your activity level
Staying active is important to keep your body running at optimal capacity, said CNN fitness contributor Dana Santas. She compared long periods of physical inactivity to a car sitting idle for months and then is unable to start.
“Just like that car, your body needs maintenance, which includes regularly revving your engine,” said Santas, who is a mobility coach in professional sports and bestselling author.
It’s also a good idea to try and stay active throughout the day, said CNN fitness contributor Stephanie Mansour, who is the host of “Step It Up With Steph” on PBS. She suggested setting alarms on your phone for every hour, or three times a day to start, as a reminder to stand up and stretch.
While brushing your teeth or waiting for water to boil on the stove, Mansour said you can easily slip in some exercise by doing 10 squats. A morning and evening stretching routine can also help people increase their activity level, she said.
“Being active and doing things like standing up, stretching, walking, strengthening and using our muscles, and getting our hearts pumping through cardio exercise, all helps our bodies function optimally,” Mansour said.