Health Risks of Not Being Physically Active

Not being physically active is a risk factor for health problems. If you are not physically active, you are at higher risk for:

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • High blood pressure

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Some kinds of cancer

Facts about inactive lifestyles

Many deaths occur each year due to a lack of regular physical activity. Here are some facts:

  • More people tend to have an inactive lifestyle as they get older.

  • Women are more likely to have inactive lifestyles than men.

  • Non-Hispanic white adults are more likely to get physical activity.

  • Hispanic and African-American adults are less likely to get physical activity.

Getting active to prevent health problems

Being physically active has been shown to have many benefits. For example:

  • You are less likely to develop coronary heart disease. This is even if you smoke, drink alcohol, or don’t have a healthy diet.

  • Overweight or obese people greatly reduce their risk for disease when they get regular physical activity.

  • Older adults who are active can reduce their risk for falls. They can improve their ability to do daily activities.

You can help prevent health problems caused by not being physically active. The CDC suggests that you:

  • Increase your amount of weight-bearing activities. Examples of this are running and walking.

  • Increase your amount of aerobic activity. This includes running, biking, or swimming.

  • Do strength training exercises twice a week.

  • Do aerobic activity all during the week. This means things that increase your heart rate.

The CDC suggests that adults with chronic conditions or disabilities do 1 of the below if they are able:

  • Spend 2 1/2 to 5 hours of time each week on moderate aerobic activity. This is about 21 to 43 minutes a day.

  • Spend 1 1/4 to 2 ½ hours of time each week on vigorous aerobic activity. This is about 11 to 43 minutes a day.

  • Spend 1 1/4 to 2 ½ hours of time each week on a combination of activity. This means both moderate and vigorous aerobic activity. This is about 11 to 43 minutes a day.

If you are not active or have chronic health problems, ask your healthcare provider how to safely increase the amount of your daily activity. Even a small daily increase can have health benefits.

Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer: Diane Horowitz MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2019
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