Why Exercise Is Hard

Why Exercise Is Hard


Hi, this is Alex, from MinuteEarth. You’re probably sitting down right now. Or maybe you’re standing. But it’s unlikely that you’re watching
this video while playing baseball, or going for a run, or rock climbing. In fact, if you’re like most people, you’re
not very active even when you’re not watching YouTube videos. In the United States, for example, more than
three quarters of all people fail to meet recommended guidelines for physical activity,
and some countries are even less active. That’s a problem, because when people aren’t
physically active, we’re more anxious, we sleep worse, and we have fuzzier memories
and shorter lifespans than if we were active. We also have a higher risk of cancer, heart
attack, diabetes, obesity, stroke, Alzheimer’s, depression, and tons of other health problems. If all of us were to exercise more, each year
the world could save over 5 million lives and $50 billion in healthcare costs. But, unfortunately, that’s really hard,
because it seems to require fighting against our genetics. Way back in the day, we spent tons of energy
finding enough food to survive. So ancient people who took it easy when they
weren’t searching for food replenished more energy than people who also did pointless
physical activity. As a result, they had more energy for hunting
and gathering, and were more likely to survive and reproduce. Modern studies have suggested that different
genetic factors predispose us to be more or less active, and can be passed along, so it’s
likely that our ancestors – at least the ones who survived – had genes that promoted taking
it easy that got passed along, and along, and along, all the way to us. But now that most of us don’t need to throw
things or run or climb rocks to get food, our natural preference for taking it easy
has taken over. Sure, some people still do these things as
exercise – which is what we call it when you intentionally do “physical activity” for
the purpose of improving your health – but that’s not enough of a motivator for most
people. So most people take it easy, which, as we
mentioned before, leads to a ton of problems. That’s why some people are calling for us
to reincorporate more non-exercise physical activity back into modern life. If we built fewer roads and more paths, it
would be easier for people to use their own power to get to school or work. If we put stairways at the main entrance to
buildings rather than hiding them in a back corridor, more people would use them rather
than elevators. If our airports had fewer human conveyor belts,
more people would walk. If we turned our lawns into gardens, we could
be active by raising and gathering food. And if we took otherwise inactive pursuits
like gaming, and combined them with a physical activity, more people would have more reasons
to be active. Of course, it wouldn’t be easy to redesign
entire communities and make new norms, like showing up to work stinky. And most people wouldn’t be able to easily incorporate enough incidental physical activity into their daily life. So to be healthy, most of us would still probably
need to intentionally exercise in addition to being incidentally physically active. Which means that even if you’ve been watching
this three minute MinuteEarth video from your treadmill desk, you should still probably
go outside and run around for a MinuteEarthree. This video was sponsored by the University
of Minnesota, where students, faculty and staff across all fields of study are working
to solve the Grand Challenges facing society. One of these challenges is helping people
be healthy, and promoting physical activity is part of the solution. Beth Lewis, the director of the School of
Kinesiology, is working to identify which types of behavioral interventions are most
effective at increasing physical activity among adults, and she’s also documenting
the effects of increased activity on mental health. For example, her research has found that higher
levels of exercise are related to a lower risk of postpartum depression among new mothers. Thanks, University of Minnesota!