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The three major factors that influence our health and longevity are genetics, the environment and behaviour. Because we have very little control over genetic factors, it is critical that we focus on the environmental and behavioural factors we can control to improve health. Whereas great strides have been made in reducing the environmental factors influencing disease, such as through vaccinations, hygiene and safety regulations, little has been done to target behavioural factors such as physical inactivity. It is tragic that so little has been done to address the one major factor affecting our health and longevity that is almost entirely under our control. At this point in time, I believe physical inactivity has become the greatest public health problem of our time and finding a way to get patients more active is absolutely critical to improving health and longevity in the 21st century.
The beneficial relationship between exercise and health has been well known dating back to the 5th century BC, when Hippocrates said that “Eating alone will not keep a man well; he must also take exercise. For food and exercise… work together to produce health”.1 This relationship has been further defined by years of scientific research that shows a clear correlation between physical activity and health status. That is, those individuals who maintain an active and fit way of life live longer and healthier lives than those who do not. This association between physical activity and health persists in virtually every subgroup of the population, regardless of age, sex, race or environmental condition.2
THE SCIENCE BEHIND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND HEALTH
There is clear scientific evidence proving the benefit of regular physical activity on both the primary and secondary prevention of diabetes, hypertension, cancer (particularly breast and colon cancer), depression, osteoporosis and dementia. Furthermore, regular physical activity has been shown to be essential in …