Inactivity 'killing as many as smoking'


Report co-author Dr I-Min Lee: "Being inactive increases your risk of developing chronic diseases"

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A lack of exercise is now causing as many deaths as smoking across the world, a study suggests.

The report, published in the Lancet to coincide with the build-up to the Olympics, estimates that about a third of adults are not doing enough physical activity, causing 5.3m deaths a year.

That equates to about one in 10 deaths from diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and breast and colon cancer.

Researchers said the problem was now so bad it should be treated as a pandemic.

And they said tackling it required a new way of thinking, suggesting the public needed to be warned about the dangers of inactivity rather than just reminded of the benefits of being active.

Exercise can...

Source: BBC health

The team of 33 researchers drawn from centres across the world also said governments needed to look at ways to make physical activity more convenient, affordable and safer.

It is recommended that adults do 150 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, cycling or gardening, each week.

The Lancet study found people in higher income countries were the least active with those in the UK among the worst, as nearly two-thirds of adults were judged not to be doing enough.

Case study


From Monday to Saturday, the streets of the Colombian capital of Bogota are packed with cars.

The city - one of the largest in South America - is a teeming metropolis, home to more than seven million people.

But on a Sunday vehicles are nowhere to be seen. Instead, the streets are taken over by pedestrians and cyclists, thanks to Ciclovia, a traffic-free streets initiative run by the city authorities.

The scheme, backed by successive mayors, has been running in one guise or another since the mid-1970s.

It now covers nearly 100km of roads in the centre of the city on Sundays and public holidays.

But as well as making Bogota a quieter place to roam, the ban on cars also has a health benefit.

Research has shown about a million residents regularly walk around on a Sunday, a fifth of whom say they would be inactive if it were not for the ban on vehicles.

Dr Michael Pratt, who was involved in the Lancet research on physical inactivity, said the Bogota scheme was a "wonderful example" of how governments could be encouraging more exercise.

The researchers admitted comparisons between countries were difficult because the way activity was estimated may have differed from place to place.

Nonetheless, they said they remained confident that their overall conclusion was valid.

Pedro Hallal, one of the lead researchers, said: "With the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games, sport and physical activity will attract tremendous worldwide attention.

"Although the world will be watching elite athletes from many countries compete in sporting events... most spectators will be quite inactive.

"The global challenge is clear - make physical activity a public health priority throughout the world to improve health and reduce the burden of disease."

Prof Lindsey Davies, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, agreed.

"We need to do all we can to make it easy for people to look after their health and get active as part of their daily lives," she said.

"Our environment has a significant part to play. For example, people who feel unsafe in their local park will be less likely to use it."

But others questioned equating smoking with inactivity.

While smoking and inactivity kill a similar number of people, smoking rates are much lower than the number of inactive people, making smoking more risky to the individual.

Dr Claire Knight, of Cancer Research UK, said: "When it comes to preventing cancer, stopping smoking is by far the most important thing you can do."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    what do you think the govt should do?
    Enforce health standards in school menu's (Gove is backtracking).
    Stop selling school playing fields to developers.
    Build more affordable public leisure facilities.
    Enforce the working time directive to give people more leisure time.
    Keep the pension age 65 or lower it.
    Dont assume I'm an unhealthy slob because I post on this subject

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    Actually you would think the government would not want people to live longer. Preferably die just at retirement age then the pension pot would never be used.

    So keep eating MacDonalds till your heart gives out. Considering a major sporting event is sponsored by them, does this send out the wrong signals? I do not think its engendering healthy living mentality is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    Well, local government is responsible for arranging sports amenities.

    And the Minister for Local Government is Eric Pickles.

    What would Eric Pickles do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    Your naivety is horrifying.
    Many people live in areas that simply aren't safe to run about. On top of that some people DO lack half an hour in their day. Some people lack park facilities as well.
    For some it's impossible to find a time when friends are all free half an hour's worth of time.
    It isn't the govt's fault, true. But they can help in the worst areas (Also the fattest.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    "government should provide an environment where health is an easier option."

    It's called a 'park'.

    I'm in east London and there are plenty.

    Failing that there are quite a lot of 'roads'.

    Run around in the 'parks' or along the 'roads'.

    You can also do press-ups and sit-ups on what is known as a 'floor'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    Anything to bring down the world population is a good thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    So this week lack of exercise is deemed as a killer, and a few weeks ago a report stated that too much exercise can be a killer, thank you for clearing this up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    Episode 2:

    "The team of 33 researchers drawn from centres across the world. . ."

    ah: now we need an international team of experts to state the blindingly obvious for us?

  • rate this

    Comment number 463. you have a Passport
    start exercising slowly to get into a routine"

    But why? Why should we? I really couldnt give a flying about receiving a letter from the King/Queen on reaching, no, enduring a century

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    Wow! this is a new concept...exercise may make you healthier, feel better and live longer!? Anyone who needs to be told that deserves to stay wedged into their armchair eating pizza and get what's coming to them a lot sooner that the rest of us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    Dance to work,and only smoke underwater.

  • Comment number 460.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    @417.Sixp, Access to Leisure clubs isnt expensive, I pay £25/month for my local public swimming pool for that I get to go when ever I want and stay for a couple of hours. Also I can upgrade to use the gym for an extra £10 a month with the same conditions. However, as I walk almost everywhere, i dont see the point of paying for a gym.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    If Obama has enough time to exercise, SO DO YOU!

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    Is there a park anywhere near you?
    In that case the govt has provided all it needs to.

    You seem to think they should pay your gym membership, publically fund all the swimming pools, and give you the trainers to run in as well.
    Your health is your responsibility, short of forcing people to exercise, the govt can only advise.
    If i am wrong, what do you think the govt should do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    Chances are there's a green area near home...Even if there isn't, see all that open space between the can walk/run/cycle/skip/cartwheel through it. If you think you need an expensive gym to keep fit then you're either blind or deluded...YOU are the only person who can decide how healthy to be, nobody else can choose for you and your choice is certainly not limited by "the state"!

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    It's good to see the BBC doing their bit!
    No-one is going to sit around and talk about these inane stories all day!
    I'm going out to talk about REAL news stories!

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    I have never liked sport but have never been overweight in my life. Women blame having children if they started a diet straight after giving birth and did post natal excercises they would find that it worked.

    Fashion does not help as jogging bottoms and sloppy jumpers cover up a multitude. You should have pride in yourself that is the important message.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    The government have done as much as they need to. If you don't believe that I suggest you visit some other countries in the world where they dont even have drinkable water. There is no reason - other than by your own doing - for anyone to be unhealthy in this country, there's a good health service and plenty of support for those who need it. The rest is up to the individual.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    150 minutes is NOTHING, just over 2 hours, I can't believe so few adults manage that a week. I currently do 420 hours of ballet every week which is knackering but you feel so much better for it in the long run. It's all about finding a sport or activity you love so you have that encouragement to go!


Page 26 of 49


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