If you didn’t know it already, avoiding exercise will make you fatter, slower and less healthy. (It’ll do the same if you did know it, in fact.) You may also be aware that it will kill you. But just how quickly? New research published by the Lancet journal of medicine suggests that just 15 minutes a day of moderate exercise (a brisk walk would count) can increase your life span by three years. Everyone is aware that the inactivity fostered by our media-consuming, over-eating and largely sedentary lifestyles is in some way unhealthy, but medical researchers have convincingly linked our penchant for sloth to a whole host of afflictions–including heart disease, obesity, type-2 diabetes, breast cancer, bowel cancer, high blood pressure, asthma and arthritis. And this culture of couch-potatoship shows no signs of abating in the future. Americans watch on average 151 hours of television a month (to say nothing of time spent on the Internet, playing video games, etc.), and a 2011 CDC study showed that only one -third of high school students were getting the recommended level of weekly exercise, while less than 15% reported doing any physical activity whatsoever in the week before the questionnaire was administered.
Several studies have shown that exercise can improve academic performance: is love of laziness one of the reasons American test scores continue to slip against international competition? Consider Malcolm Gladwell’s much discussed assertion in his 2008 book Outliers that 10,000 hours of practice on a single activity is enough to make anyone reach genius level. If true, an American child at the age of eight devoting half of his television time to another activity would become a genius in it by the time they left for college. Certainly we are geniuses of the television, but what medical advances have we lost, what melodies have gone uncomposed, what sunsets have we not painted because we couldn’t get off of the couch?