Physical inactivity “pandemic” causing 5m deaths a year
A worrying study published in The Lancet medical journal estimates that inactivity is responsible for 5.3 million deaths worldwide, annually claiming as many lives as smoking and obesity.
Declaring lack of exercise to be a pandemic, the American researchers leading the study estimated that failure to engage in at least 150 minutes of heart-rate raising activity a week can be blamed for 6 -10% of all cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Physical inactivity has long been a problem, but most governments have so far been focusing on the health benefits of keeping moving, rather than the detrimental and potentially life-threatening effects of not partaking in enough exercise.
The figures are extremely concerning, with the study observing a strong positive correlation between lack of activity and shortened life expectancy, and suggesting that one out of every ten deaths worldwide can be attributed to global laziness.
Researcher Dr I-Min Lee, an epidemiologist at Harvard’s School of Public Health, said: “Physical inactivity has a large impact on the health of the world. In fact, its impact is comparable to that of cigarette smoking.”
Dr James Levine, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, praised the study, saying: “This is a super, super analysis. We know that as soon as somebody gets out of their chair, their blood sugar improves, their blood cholesterol and triglycerides improve, and that’s very consistent.”
Many people don’t realise that an inactive lifestyle, even if you appear to be healthy, is as bad for you as smoking or severe obesity, and although Europeans and North Americans have the highest rate of inactivity, the rest of the world is alarmingly catching up.
Dr Levine concisely concluded with a motto that should be adopted the world over: “Every time you get up it gets better. Every time you sit down it gets worse.”
The study has been published at an apt time, as London prepares itself for the upcoming Olympic games and people are taking more of an interest in sport and exercise. So grab your running shoes, jump on your bike or drag the dog out for a long, brisk walk. You’ll add 0.68 years to your life expectancy, and save yourself a lifetime of ill health.