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Home » Is Inactivity the New Smoking? A Deep Dive into the Effects of Lack of Exercise

Is Inactivity the New Smoking? A Deep Dive into the Effects of Lack of Exercise

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Is Inactivity the New Smoking? A Deep Dive into the Effects of Lack of Exercise

Physical inactivity has become increasingly prevalent in today’s society. According to the World Health Organization,1 in 4 adults worldwide do not meet the recommended levels of physical activity, and approximately 81% of adolescents do not engage in enough exercise. This trend is concerning as research has shown that lack of exercise can have detrimental effects on our health.

One of the most alarming comparisons that has been made in recent years is between physical inactivity and smoking. It has been argued that inactivity may be the new smoking, with similar negative impacts on our health.

But how exactly does lack of exercise affect us, and is it really as harmful as smoking?

Health Risks Associated with Physical Inactivity

Regular physical activity has numerous benefits for our physical and mental well-being. It reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and some cancers. Pain management, improved cognitive function, and a boost in mood are also among the many benefits of exercise.

On the other hand, physical inactivity has been linked to an increased risk of developing these chronic diseases. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to weight gain, decreased muscle mass and strength, and a decline in cardiovascular health. It can also contribute to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

How Inactivity Compares to Smoking

While the negative effects of smoking on our health have been well-documented, lack of exercise may not seem as immediately harmful. However, recent studies have shown that physical inactivity poses a similar risk to smoking when it comes to chronic diseases.

For example, one study found that physical inactivity accounts for around 9% of premature deaths worldwide, while smoking accounts for around 10%. This indicates that inactivity is a significant contributor to the global burden of disease, similar to smoking.

Moreover, both physical inactivity and smoking have been linked to various chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Lack of exercise has been shown to have a similar impact on the risk of developing cardiovascular disease as smoking.

Breaking the Cycle of Inactivity

The good news is that physical inactivity is a modifiable risk factor, meaning that we have the power to change it. Just as quitting smoking can significantly improve our health outcomes, increasing our levels of physical activity can also have a positive impact on our well-being.

Small lifestyle changes such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going for a walk during lunch break can make a difference in our overall health and aid in pain management. Studies show that even light-to-moderate exercise can contribute to pain reduction and improve pain management, particularly in the context of chronic pain.

In Tulsa, health initiatives are being created to encourage residents to participate in regular physical activity as a means of managing pain and improving health outcomes. Initiatives like public fitness centers and community-wide wellness challenges are not only making physical activity more accessible but are also raising awareness about the importance of regular exercise in pain management in Tulsa and beyond.


While more research is needed on the direct comparison between physical inactivity and smoking, it is clear that both can have negative effects on our health. Physical inactivity has been linked to numerous chronic diseases, and its impact may be just as significant as smoking.

However, the good news is that we have the power to break the cycle of inactivity and improve our overall health and well-being. By making small changes to our daily routines, we can increase our levels of physical activity and reap the many benefits that come with it. So, let’s ditch the sedentary lifestyle and get moving for a healthier future!