The Age of Inactivity: How Laziness is Killing Us by Dr Nick Knight/PhD in Human Performance

Even Before Christ, Hippocrates saw exercise as an elixir of life. So why has inactivity become so appealing, and at what point did we forget that exercise makes us feel good?
Two thousand years ago, Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine hit the nail on the head. He said, that if we all had “the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health”. Bingo.

Obviously then, being a species of great intellect, over the next two millennia we took on his sensible advice, integrating exercise into our daily life and cashing in on the rewards for our bodies and minds. Hmm, maybe we didn’t quite all get that memo. Instead something else happened and physical inactivity grew into the fourth largest global killer in the world (according to the World Health Organisation), with some claiming it takes more lives than smoking, diabetes and obesity combined.

Yes, physical inactivity has its price tags. It is linked to the development of chronic health problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, depression, dementia and cancer. It can make us feel bad about ourselves, guilty and frustrated, appeased only with the ever alluring reward of inactivity – comfort, rest and stress-free. 

The third price tag, and possibly most in need of an active not passive reaction, is the generational one. There is growing over the degree of inactivity in children with precipitants embedded within our shift to a more sedentary lifestyle, fear and risk associated with outdoor play, and the advent of more advanced and ‘real-life replacement’ for one in four children who see online social networking and gaming as their activity. 

Even more sobering is the evidence that suggests many children still have a negative approach to physical activity in schools, with teachers believing that nearly half of primary school pupils leaving school without “basic movement skills”, and that more than one in three children dislike exercise by the time they leave primary school. These barriers can potentially frame their adult sedentary life. A high price tag indeed.

Make no mistake, these are massive, insidious, chronic alarm bells. So it’s no surprise that in an effort to stem the physical inactivity shock-wave, there is an increasingly louder call from healthcare, academic and government sectors to seed physical activity firmly at the heart of our healthcare system.

You need a plan. Now I like simple, so my plan has only two steps; Step 1 – write down your motivation, asking yourself the following about your goals: what is it, why do you want it, when do you want to achieve it, what can help it and what may hinder it. Always remember to do this in the realistic context of your own busy life and please, never be hard on yourself - you are taking action! Step 2 is to apply your goals to the “F.I.T.T principle”, a way to plan your exercise. I’ve summarised this below:

Dr Nick Knight is a junior doctor based in London with a PhD background in human performance


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