Sedentary lifestyle: The start of a cycle that leads to serious health problems

Dr. Robert Drapkin

Dr. Robert Drapkin

By Joel Wittnebel/Active Senior’s Digest

It’s no mystery, exercise is good for you, no matter what your age.

Yet, Canadians just aren’t getting enough of it.

According to Statistics Canada, only 53.7 per cent of Canadians over the age of 12 are considered physically active and one in five over the age of 18, roughly 5.3 million people are considered obese. When considered on a global scale, the World Health Organization reported in 2010 that only 23 per cent of people over the age of 18 were actually getting enough physical activity.

For Dr. Robert Drapkin, a fellow of the American College of Physicians (ACP), body builder and author, leading a healthy lifestyle starts with exercise, whatever your age.

Drapkin says that inactivity is what opens the doors to a whole host of health problems.

“It’s a closed circle of sedentary lifestyle, muscle weakness, inactivity, increased body fat, chronic metabolic disease,” he says. “This is probably the most important health problem in the Americas today.”

Starting in your 30s, a lack of physical activity can lead a loss of muscle mass that equates to approximately one per cent a year. As muscle turns to fat, increased body fat causes further issues.

For seniors, any issues with limited mobility or weight can be overcome, Drapkin says.

“Almost everything can be overcome in some way if people really try,” he says. “You can work around all these issues in some degree.”

The key is starting slowly and working your way to whatever intensity your body can handle, and then doing this in small intervals, or high-intensity interval training.

“It applies to just about every form of exercise,” Drapkin says. “This is what I tell my patients…the simplest way to start is just by walking.”

Complimented with a healthy diet, specifically high in protein for those looking to rebuild muscle, the health benefits abound.

“You actually can resolve a lot of your health problems with just diet and exercise,” he says.

And for those thinking it won’t make a difference, the doctor says you’re wrong.

“It will make a difference, it always makes a difference,” Drapkin says. “Any time you can get up and move, and when you get tired or start to be uncomfortable, you stop, but any activity level, any increased activity, is good and will make you feel a little bit better.”

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