As many as 50 million Americans are living sedentary lives, putting them at increased risk of health problems and even early death.

This according to researcher Steven Blair, who called Americans' physical inactivity the biggest public health problem of the 21st century.

Research has shown approximately 25 percent to 35 percent of American adults are inactive. Meaning they have sedentary jobs, no regular physical activity program, and are generally inactive around the house or yard.

Here's a rundown of the findings:

  • The ~50 million inactive people are virtually doubling their risk of developing numerous health conditions.
  • The research comes primarily from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, which began in 1970 and includes more than 80,000 participants. They noted that fitness level was a significant predictor of mortality.
  • The researchers periodically measured the participants' body composition and body mass index, and each patient underwent a stress test. Researchers also looked at numerous other factors including the participants' medical histories.
  • One follow-up study of 40,842 longitudinal study participants, showed poor fitness level accounted for about 16 percent of all deaths in both men and women.
  • This percentage was significantly higher than when other risk factors were considered, including obesity, smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes.
  • The Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study also found that moderately fit men lived six years longer than unfit men.
  • The study also showed that women who were very fit were 55 percent less likely to die from breast cancer than women who were not in good shape. This was after the researchers had controlled for BMI, smoking, family history of breast cancer and other possible risk factors.
  • Blair also highlighted the benefits of exercise on the mind, referring to recent emerging evidence that activity delays the mind's decline and is good for brain health overall.
  • Doing something is better than doing nothing, and doing more is better than doing less.

It's time to take action!

While this may seem like sort of a duh kind of revelation, when the stats are laid out in such blunt terms, it becomes harder to ignore.

So, while it's popular nowadays to bash the importance of exercise when it comes to fat loss, there really is no debate about exercise being good for you... extending-your-life good for you.

And, let's not forget that exercise not only adds years to your life, but also life to your years.

Here's a quick and easy guide

  • Find activities you enjoy and pursue them vigorously.
  • Try something new - join a team, running or walking group, join a gym, get some exercise DVD's, find an accountability partner, plan exercise-based family activities.
  • Be sure to include resistance training amongst your exercise choices and seek professional guidance where necessary.