“If exercise could be packaged into a pill, it would be the single most widely, prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation” . Dr. Butler said this in 1978 when he was the Director of the National Institute of Aging, and the data accumulated since then has proven him right over and over again. But, based on the same evidence and data, I would now adapt his statement to say “If physical activity could be packaged into a pill, it would be the best medicine for people to live longer, healthier and disease-free lives.”
Exercise is a subset of physical activity (PA), which encompasses everything from yoga to dancing to walking to tai-chi…to just being more active and sitting less.
Here are the benefits of physical activity (PA) in any form .
Fig. 1: Wordcloud of the benefits of physical activity.
PA in any form leads to…
Prevention or minimization of excessive weight gain in adults, maintenance of weight within a healthy range and prevention of obesity
Reduction in the risk of dementia and cognitive decline
Reduction in the risk of colon and breast cancer and likely cancers of the bladder, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, lung and stomach.
Reduction in the development of a new chronic condition, reduction in the risk of progression of a condition, if already present and improvement of physical function and quality of life. These include osteoarthritis, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, among others.
Reduction in cardiovascular incidence and mortality (heart attacks, stroke) and reduction in the incidence of hypertension and diabetes
Improvement in all-cause mortality
Reduction in the incidence of falls and fall-related injuries
Today’s piece is really just about “moving” v/s “not moving”. In short, physical activity, versus no physical activity. It doesn’t matter what kind of PA we do…as long as we are active, we do better than if we just sit and do nothing as seen in this color chart.
Fig. 2: From the Physical Activity Guidelines 2018 for Americans .
The more active we are, the longer we live, but as marked by the blue circle, the biggest improvement is really between doing nothing and doing something.
Fig. 3: From the Physical Activity Guidelines 2018 for Americans .
So, what is our matka here? Simply “moving” and being physically active will help us live longer and healthier as compared to being sedentary and physically inactive.
It is as simple as that.
1. Butler RN. Public Interest Report No. 23: Exercise, the Neglected Therapy. Int J Aging Hum Dev. 1978 Mar;8(2):193–5.
2. 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee. 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018.