[COLUMN] Sedentary death

ARE we on a suicide mission?

The way many of us abuse our body with bad diet, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, and other unhealthy behaviors, makes one wonder if we have locked in ourselves on a self-destruct mode or are we on a suicide mission. I have expounded on this in detail in my book, “Let’s Stop ‘Killing’ Our Children” (amazon.com, www.philipSchua.com), a pre-emptive and proactive strategy on healthy lifestyle on a cellular level and disease prevention starting from the womb.

Inactivity is a major “disease” that kills millions upon millions around the world. It is a mindset, a bad habit, a lack of discipline. A sedentary lifestyle (lack of exercise) is worse than many individual maladies afflicting man today because it is a factor in most serious illnesses, like diabetes mellitus, heart attack, stroke, sexual dysfunction, osteoporosis, etc.

As a matter of fact, science has shown that physical activities, regimented daily exercises, lower the incidence, not only of those diseases listed above, but of depression and suicide, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer. An active lifestyle also helps slow down the aging process, keeps our skin looking young(er), tones our muscles, enables us to have better metabolism and weight control, fortifies our immune system against diseases and infections, and even improves our outlook in life. Indeed, daily physical exercise also protects our mind – our entire body and being.

Professor Frank Booth, Ph.D. of the biomedical sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia, coined the term Sedentary Death Syndrome (SeDS) to dramatize the reality that “exercising is a matter of life and death.” That’s how important, essential, physical exercise is to the human organism. It is a dreadful fact but 70% of Americans today do not exercise regularly. Other less health-conscious people around the world are obviously even worse. Just sitting around is a worldwide phenomenon. The World Health Organization last year reported that “about 2 million deaths annually worldwide are attributed to sedentary lifestyles.”

One of the subtitles of Professor Booth’s article is entitled ‘Dead Man Sitting.’ “Sitting kills more than 300,000 Americans annually…if SeDS were a real disease, that would make it the third leading cause of death in the United States, right after heart disease and cancer,” he stated. This inactivity-related disorders affect nearly 75% of adult and children and is projected to cost the United States $1.5 trillion over the next ten years.

Is exercise essential?

Yes, very much so. To illustrate a point, let us exaggerate and consider a situation that is extreme: a person who is bedridden, a stroke victim or a quadriplegic, someone practically unable to move. What happens? The muscles all over the body [begin to] atrophy and in most instances are replaced with fats, become flabby and lose bulk; the heart and lungs deteriorate, the circulation slows down, metabolism becomes impaired, the immune system declines, and the brain and all other organs function poorly. Humans, animals in general, were not meant to be vegetables. Physical activities are essential for cardiovascular fitness and fundamental to health.

Why is brisk walking better than jogging?

In the 60s and 70s, jogging was very popular as a form of exercise. However, there were significant attendant complications resulting from jogging, like injuries to feet, ankles, knees, hips, spine, etc. Studies in Sports and Cardiovascular Medicine two decades later showed that the cardiovascular benefits from brisk walking were the same as those derived from jogging, minus the many significant injuries which show as we grow older.

What is the target heart rate?

When exercising, the heart rate normally speeds up. The heart rate that one wants to achieve with exercise is called Target Heart Rate (THR). Reaching this heart rate when exercising means maximum benefit is being derived from the physical activity. To compute your THR, subtract your age from 220. Example: the THR of someone who is 50 years old is 220 minus 50, or 170. When exercising, one tries to reach his/her THR, so long as no symptoms occur, like chest pains or tightness of the chest, dizziness, or fainting. Some expected shortness of breath is normal, which should subside with rest. Among the elderly and those on medications, adjustments need to be made. The best thing to do before embarking on an exercise regimen is to consult your physician, who will advise you accordingly, and prescribe what is best for you.

How many calories are burned by exercise?

For a 150-pound (about 68-kilo) person, doing the following for one hour burns the corresponding amount of calories indicated here: walking 2 mph, 240 calories; walking 4.5 mph, 440; jogging 7 mph, 920; bicycling 6 mph, 240; bicycling 12mph, 410; jumping rope, 750; running in place, 660; running 10 mph, 1,280; swimming 25 yards per minute, 275; tennis, singles, 400. For half an hour of non-stop fast dancing (like swing or boogie), 200 calories; and, in contrast, for a 30-minute foreplay and actual sex, only 90 calories are burned, believe it or not. Obviously, we cannot rely on sexercise.

What is the minimum recommended?

The American College of Sports Medicine has the following minimum exercise recommendation for healthy men and women: Frequency: one hour, 3-5 days a week. It appears that exercising beyond an hour does not confer added cardiovascular benefit and only increases the stress to the heart, joints, and muscles.

Exercise in a pill?

Scientists have identified a drug that mimics the effects of exercise on muscle and bone in mice, without any negative effects on surrounding tissues. It even reinvigorates muscles and bone and joints. The drug is Locamidazole (LAMPZ), according to the Tokyo Medical and Dental University. But it is not a substitute for physical exercise; it augments it, just like Viagra for men being second only to the natural sex hormones in our teen-years and in our twenties.

If you will excuse me, it’s time for my Tai-Bo, the hottest low-impact entire-body workout to hit this century, an exercise that could be done anywhere, anytime, with no gadget required. Just your body.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, Health Advocate, newspaper columnist, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. He was a recipient of the Indiana Sagamore of the Wabash Award in 1995. Other Sagamore past awardees include President Harry Truman, President George HW Bush, Muhammad Ali and Astronaut Gus Grissom (Wikipedia). Websites: FUN8888.com, Today.SPSAtoday.com, and philipSchua.com; Email: [email protected].


Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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