Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Yankee Doodling

Why don’t people exercise, even a little?

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 04 June 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3024
  1. Douglas Kamerow, senior scholar, Robert Graham Center for policy studies in primary care, professor of family medicine, Georgetown University, and associate editor, The BMJ
  1. dkamerow{at}

There must be something we can do about it

Everyone knows that exercise is good for you. Physical inactivity is estimated to cause 3.2 million deaths a year globally, making it number four on the list of risk factors.1 In the United States, inactivity combined with poor diet is second only to smoking as a risk factor for death.2 There is much evidence showing that regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health, better than any pill that we have.

Brief digression for a small rant: why do experts insist on the term “physical activity,” which sounds clinical and scientific, instead of “exercise,” which only sounds arduous and undesirable? (I guess I answered my own question.)

Anyway, physical activity is defined as anything that gets the skeletal muscles moving and that expends energy. The list of benefits of regular physical activity grows each year and includes decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and depression and dementia, along with help with weight control, bone strength, and, for elderly …

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