Last Friday, as part of an international soccer competition, I played on the Japanese team versus the Ghana team.

Although we lost, we were given a taste of the skill level – and the fitness level – that we would be up against in the tournament.

Not wanting to let the half-hour game be my only practice, I teamed up with some of the Ghana players and played pick-up soccer with other players. Though it was difficult, the extra three hours of crazy plays and sprints was worth the enjoyment and effort.

There was no doubt I was completely out-of-shape; the last time I did any exercise was sometime around November of last year. Yet, the exhilaration and challenge of playing with others who enjoyed playing soccer, instead of flaunting their egos, was the main reason why I managed to hang on for so long.

That got me thinking – why can't people do this more often?

Is it that difficult to bring together a group of open-minded individuals who, regardless of skill level, can host a weekly physical activity? Such a thing could help change people's lives for the better, especially those who aren't very active.

We live in a society that is slowly eating and "sitting" itself to death. There is no end to the statistics and studies that connect our sedentary lifestyles and poor eating choices to a multitude of crippling, chronic diseases. While we may think that we have several years or decades to "change" our habits to combat these incoming problems, such a lackadaisical approach can only spell disaster for us.

Each day that we put off our physical activity today is another day that we've lost keeping ourselves healthy in the future.

When I say that people should exercise more (or at the very least, become more active), I don't mean it in the context that they should hate who they are. It's not about not "loving the skin you're in"; it's about wising up and realizing that you will be confronting costly and debilitating diseases in the future.

For example, obesity, a major consequence in a sedentary lifestyle, has been calculated to cost the U.S. almost $147 billion annually in medical care, according to RTI international.

That number will without a doubt rise as the last "baby boomer" generation continues to age and our generation, as well as subsequent ones, lead inactive and unhealthy lifestyles.

Few things motivate me more than when I do something with others, however. When you have others watching you, you want to do better and push yourself. You want to show that, even though you may not be as skilled as others in an event, you're not going to sit on the sidelines and complain about how difficult something is. You want to prove to yourself that you don't give up easily – in doing so, we may surprise ourselves how much we can achieve.

When it came to soccer, even though I was a novice, I didn't idly stand by and watch the pros take over; I played too. On a broader scale, not only was I shocked by how far I pushed myself, but also that I got a hefty bit of exercise in.

If we could only create such an environment where these ideals were instilled in people's minds, we wouldn't have to force people to exercise; they would do it willingly, eager to join others in different physical activities to prove to themselves their potential and passion. Instead of doing it alone, what better way to do it when you can have fun with others and get in shape?

For those who are interested in coming out to join some pick-up soccer and get exercise, come out to the intramural fields – there's usually a free-for-all match beginning each Friday at 3:30.

Jan Urbano is a senior in biological sciences. He can be reached at jurbano@utk.edu.