Ask Dr. Marty: Inactivity


I heard that a lack of activity is the new “smoking” in regard to the negative effects on health. Exactly what does that mean? I exercise three or four times a week. Am I covered?

Many recent studies show that even when you regularly exercise, inactivity can have serious effects on health and longevity. So why is that true? Mayo Clinic says that there are over 10,000 studies indicating that what you have heard is true. Inactivity has the same mortality rate as smoking.

Here are some of the study results that indicate inactivity (regardless of exercise) can have a significant increase in risks for disease:

• Overall risk of illness by 114%
• Risk of depression by 150%
• Risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 82%
• Risk of uterine cancer by 66%
• Risk of lung cancer by 50%
• Risk of colon cancer by 30%
• Risk of breast cancer by 20 – 30%

Sitting for more than an hour at a time increases muscle and joint aches, which often lead to … you guessed it—a spiral of more inactivity.

Sitting for at least eight hours daily increases your risk of Type II Diabetes by 90%. And diabetes has its own set of nasty side effects, like an increased rate of cardiovascular disease, dementia, and cancer. You might think “I don’t have diabetes. I don’t have to worry about blood sugar.” Unfortunately, that is not the case. Insulin resistance is a major factor in our health and well-being, even if the numbers don’t say “diabetes.”
Inactivity wreaks havoc on your normal body rhythms. Do I hear mid-day snoring out there from a lack of sleep?

You might be saying to yourself “That’s a stretch to think it could make such a difference.” So, let’s take a look at what simple activity does in the body:
• Raises the processing of blood sugar
• Lowers insulin resistance
• Processes cholesterol out of the body
• Metabolizes triglycerides out of the body
• Normalizes blood pressure
• Increases circulation – Increasing circulation brings more oxygen to the brain, which results in sharper concentration and memory, (not to mention less snoring in the day!) The increase in circulation reduces your risk for depression and diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

And if you’re thinking you might as well not exercise, think again. Exercise comes with its own set of benefits. For example, there is a 20 – 40% reduction in the risk of getting cancer in general if you regularly exercise. But that’s for another day, Scarlet!

Hot Tip: Never sit when you can stand. Never stand when you can move. Maybe there’s one of those activity-oriented watches that does everything but wash the dishes on your Christmas list? Or at the very least, I am reminded to include some ideas for activity into my New Year’s resolutions.

Stay well.

Marty Kernion, Ph.D. is not a medical doctor. She has a doctorate in naturopathy. Naturopathy uses natural, gentle ways to bring our bodies back into balance so that they have the God-given ability to heal themselves. She is a retired professor of herbal medicine and nutrition and has written 39 college level courses in natural approaches to health. She has published two books on natural health. She can be reached on for scheduling a class or consultation, or for sending in your questions for this column.