The Impact of Physical Inactivity

By: Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP
Salesian Cooperator

The ill effect of the lockdown such as weight gain continues to bother me. I wanted to know more of the other health consequences of physical inactivity. Reviewing some articles, I found the following CDC write up on the impact of physical inactivity to be a good starting point to guide us in the direction of “why we want to keep moving”. 

Only 1 in 4 US adults and 1 in 5 high school students get the recommended levels of physical activity. Not getting enough physical activity comes with high health and financial costs. It can contribute to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, several cancers, and obesity. In addition, low levels of physical activity are associated with $117 billion in health care costs every year.

People of all ages and conditions can benefit from more physical activity, including aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises, according to the new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans external icon. Physical activity contributes to normal growth and development, reduces the risk of several chronic diseases, and helps people function better throughout the day and sleep better at night. Even short bouts of physical activity can improve health and wellness.

The Harmful Effects of Not Getting Enough Physical Activity

Heart Disease
Not getting enough physical activity can lead to heart disease—even for people who have no other risk factors. It can also increase the likelihood of developing other heart disease risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes
Not getting enough physical activity can raise a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Physical activity helps control blood sugar (glucose), weight, and blood pressure and helps raise “good” cholesterol and lower “bad” cholesterol. Adequate physical activity can also help reduce the risk of heart disease and nerve damage, which are often problems for people with diabetes.

Getting the recommended amount of physical activity can lower the risk of many cancers, including cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, uterus, esophagus, kidney, lung, and stomach. These effects apply regardless of weight status.

The Health Benefits of Physical Activity

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition presents new findings on the benefits of regular physical activity, which include:

  • Improved sleep.
  • Increased ability to perform everyday activities.
  • Improved cognitive ability and a reduced risk of dementia.
  • Improved bone and musculoskeletal health.

In the United States:



do not get enough physical activity.




in high school do not get enough physical activity.




BILLION in annual health care costs are related to low physical activity.


In addition, getting enough physical activity, along with eating a healthy diet, is the best way to maintain a healthy weight. People who want to lose weight may need to get more physical activity and reduce calorie intake.

Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: begin to explore what changes you would do to replace inactivity.

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