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 611.

    593.Simple Simon
    "What about when its due to too many people. living. for much longer?"

    Well maybe we could just kill off everyone over 70? Seriously, did it ever occur to you that the NHS spends alot of time treating people of between 40-50 who have have ruined their bodies through crap food and inactivity?

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    Maybe that was a little harsh. The availability of cheap junk and expense of healthy alternatives doesn't exactly help either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    We should arrange it so that the rich, who pay more tax and NI, get more exercise and a healthier lifestyle that those who are poor. That way they would be able to get the benefit of their hard work in their old age, while the poor died off early before they became too much of a burden on the state.

    What’s that? It’s happening already?


  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    Eat this, drink that, dont drink too much of this, take vitamin c its good for you, dont take vitamin c it gives you cancer, take aspirin it thins your blood, dont take aspirin it makes you bleed internally, too much excersize puts strain on the heart, you're not doing enough excersize. Dont smoke that, drink guiness its got iron, you're drinking too much guiness.


  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    Humans only evolved to live until 45 at the very latest. The fact we've developed medicines and todays lifestyle to live beyond 80 or 90 is a great acheivement, and we should celebrate that instead of trying to live longer and longer by the most farcical of studies. Enjoy life by whatever means, as however you decide to live it, it will be a long one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    Agree with this 101% - which is why I believe the NHS should ALWAYS make treatment which will get a patient mobile, take priority over any other treatments (replacing private breast implants etc!) - nip the activity problem in the bud and avoid the future complications. Being mobile is something a lot of people take for granted - until it is gone.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    Most people could do the simple exercise regime in this report. We all have to die sometime, but that is not the issue. It's about whether you die in boredom and misery, unable for years to function physically, because you were too idle to take good advice. In effect, you will become a parasite on the NHS, and people in need will die because your selfishness took the resources they needed.,

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    Lots of people here think it's still okay to put down people who are overweight.
    It's not okay, it's predudice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    Look out I can feel a settee tax coming on!!!, TV licence increase, TV remotes tax and so on. So what if you want to smoke drink or be a slob there is a chance you can die sooner, these people make these choices so leave them alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.


    What rubbish. If you don't exercise, it's because you don't want to. Simple as that. I work long hours, have a 50 mile round trip to get home, have children to look after, have to cook meals when I get home and feel tired at the end of each day. But I still manage to do cardiovascular exercises 5 times a week and strength training 4 times a week. Stop making excuses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    Inactivity pays nothing towards the costs of the resulting health care. At least smokers (collectively) pay more than twice what they cost.

    Time to promote smoking? NHS cost covered twice over, reduced state pension costs, reduced home care costs. etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.

    Here we go - I've given up alcohol, smoking, most foods and now I'm being told I'm probably too lazy as I don't exercise regularly, because I work FT and have 5 kids to look after. At what point do I just give up and allow the state to control every aspect of my life? Heck, standard food parcels for all (alcohol/nicotine free) - that should solve freedom of choice once and for all. How insulting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    @591 - Rockahula - correct, keeping fit costs nothing but time and effort. I am a lazy and do little exercise, but I know if I could motivate myself I could go for a walk every day for 30 minutes and I would meet the recommended criteria for keeping fit! Easy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 598.

    ... think i'll go back to bed

  • rate this

    Comment number 597.

    If you don't exercise you'll die sooner - wow who would have thought! Apparently they are looking at the where bears defecate next.

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    Do what I do include exercise into your daily routine 4 miles to work and back walking each day saves money and keeps the belly away also I feel less guilty for having lazy bed days like this one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    So now its 150 hours manditory exercise per week to avoid various brain destroying diseases.. most of us get that shopping,
    Eat good food, ok if one could get it without preservatives.
    Billions have been put into cancer research, with little to show for it.
    Get out from under the thumb..!

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.

    With Glasgow being the heart attack and murder capital of Europe - Salmond - should bring his referendum forward - while there's still enough people to vote for him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 593.

    So it's clear that a lot of people don't like being reminded that their lifestyles may be unhealthy yet many of these same posters would moan like hell about a struggling NHS if it turned out to be tomorrow's HYS topic"

    What about when its due to too many people. living. for much longer?

  • rate this

    Comment number 592.

    BBC posted in the main article:

    "Exercise can...
    3.Help to manage stress, anxiety and even depression"

    Can it really BBC ?

    Make your mind up.


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