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Being Inactive May Be Worse Than Being Overweight

Lazy Couple

Even if you're not overweight, you need to get moving.

A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds that inactivity creates adverse health effects in everybody. In fact, the researchers behind the study say that being inactive could be twice as dangerous as carrying too much weight.

"We estimated that eradicating physical inactivity in the population would reduce the number of deaths twice as much as if obesity was eradicated," lead author Ulf Ekelund tells CBS News.

To reap the benefits of fitness, the conventional wisdom is that you should exercise at moderate intensity or higher for at least 150 minutes a week. But if you think reaching that goal is about as realistic as climbing a mountain, don't despair.

"One of the things is when you're starting from nothing, even a little bit of work [helps]," says Rick Henriksen, MD, a family physician at University of Utah School of Medicine. Henriksen explains that getting active affects how your body uses glucose since it's searching for a source of energy to power those muscles that aren't regularly challenged.

"Going for a walk will have pretty quick benefits for someone who is sedentary in how they feel, how their body is able to use glucose," he says.

This means you shouldn't treat exercise as just a means to an end like weight loss. Instead, you should view it as an end in itself.

To make a more active lifestyle stick, "you have to find something you enjoy doing," Henriksen says. It can be a sport or a conventional fitness activity, but other means of activity work, too. "Going to a museum and walking around and looking at art [or] going up into the canyons and going for a short hike" also fit the bill, he says.