Exercise is practically as important as breathing

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

exercise health
See, exercise doesn’t have to feel like a chore!

I have a question for you. What can make you feel good, prevent deadly illnesses, and take less than three hours a week to complete? I know it seems like a trick question but the answer is… drumroll please… exercise! Yup, and – according to Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman and Dr. Aaron Baggish from Massachusetts General Hospital – our bodies have evolved to work out.

In fact, the professionals say our bags of bones don’t know what to do when we don’t engage in any physical activity. Why is this? Well, I know it’s hard to imagine now, but once upon a time, technological advances such as cars, elevators, escalators, airplanes, and such did not exist (I know… the horror). If someone wanted to travel from point A to point B, they had to use their own legs to get there.

Lieberman and Baggish say that our ancestors – who used to hunt and gather food to eat – spent around 5 hours a day climbing, walking, running, and digging just for something to eat. Even after farms evolved and agriculture really kicked off, farmers worked long hard hours to gather food.

Nowadays, however, we barely break a sweat and our elbow grease isn’t used as frequently as it should be! “As a result, a majority of Americans fail to meet the Surgeon General’s recommendation to exercise at least 150 minutes per week,” wrote Lieberman and Baggish in a CNN article. Heck, 2 and a half hours a week is nowhere near the 35 our ancestors were putting in, and we foolishly fail to meet even that! It’s a shame, because exercise is just about the best way to keep your heart, bones, and immune system in check.

“Almost every organ and body system benefits from regular exercise and is compromised by its absence,” explain Lieberman and Baggish. For example, heart disease affects roughly 15 million people in the United States alone, and exercising is the best way to prevent getting the condition in the first place! The same can be said about cancer, lung problems, blood circulation issues, and other chronic illnesses.

running feet
If you’re really feeling motivated and want to be part of a group, runners will often join big marathon events that they spend months training for.

If staying active is so beneficial to our health, why don’t we have the urge to run every second we’re on our feet? “Our Stone Age ancestors who struggled to survive had no alternative to being active for many hours a day, but they also benefited from taking it easy whenever possible to avoid wasting scarce energy,” explain the professionals. For this reason, it’s important to find motivation for staying active at least 2 and a half hours a week.

Some simple ways to get pumped up about working out is to think about it as fun instead of burdensome.

Come on, doesn’t it sound better to say, “I’m gonna play soccer with my buddies for an hour,” instead of thinking, “I’m going to run for about 60 minutes on a treadmill, staring at a blank wall?” Yeah, I thought so. Additionally, it would be useful to think of staying active as a habit that’s equally as important as brushing your teeth or getting enough sleep every night.

Lieberman and Baggish stress, “Americans no longer need to be physically active to survive on a day-to-day basis, but our Stone Age bodies still require exercise to thrive as we age. For the sake of our bodies, our economy, and our country, the consequences of inaction are too great to accept.” So, what’re you waiting for? Get active!

Image of exercising kids courtesy of Neste on Flickr. Image of running shoes courtesy of Josiah Mackenzie on Flickr.