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 831.

    I'd suggest you spend a little less time running about and more time sat down reading - exercising your mind might help your spelling :)
    If you drive, cycle, jog, go on holiday, have sex etc. its a lifestyle choice with risks - if we need health care we get it - we all paid for it, you cant just say "fatties dont get" - fatties paid! so you get a fat two-fingered salute :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 830.

    not all people who are overweight are lazy or slobs some have hormonal problems with severe water retention, going on water tablets can cause kidney damage, I do know what I'm talking about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 829.

    Must be a different editor on today, they have their own rules. It seems you can call a fat person a slob, yet a few weeks back I called a fat person a wobbler and it got deleted, which is worse?

  • rate this

    Comment number 828.

    Here's a great book and teacher guide for getting kids moving...

  • rate this

    Comment number 827.

    Go and live in the USA then, that way you only have to pay your own health insurance. thats a solution; that way, if you go running, slip and need medical assistance you wont be a hypocrite considering it was self-inflicted (you did it on purpose)and avoidable therefore YOU pay for it :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 826.

    fat people should not be allowed nhs help.... why should i pay for a fat slob to have treatment when they dont help themselves...
    The NHS: free for anyone that needs it. You should be careful though; its a short step from denying people who are overweight help, to denying people help because they are mean-spirited and have no compassion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 825.

    822. simple simple simon...stop contradicting yourself and do some excercise...,.fatness is a prolonged glutoney of overindulgence ..not the same as the accidents you threw into the pot...get a bike for work or something...u like to excercise your tongue, why not your body and mind!!! enough said..

  • Comment number 824.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 823.

    When I was a member of the working classes I used to cycle the 5 miles to and from work. The response of a lot of the younger people was, 'can't you afford a car?' The idea that I did it A: because I prefered it to sitting in traffic wasting money and B in order to keep fit was alien to them and that was over twenty years ago. Nothing changes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 822.


    yourcommentisajoke - everyone who pays taxes are entitled to NH services. Those 'accidents' you're on about are still self inflicted - if your kid climbs a tree and falls out, its their fault for climbing the tree! but theyre still entitled to healthcare. your argument is ridiculous and shallow

  • rate this

    Comment number 821.

    819. simple simon..
    these would be accidents...being a slob and burden on the tax payer and nhs is not an accident...

  • rate this

    Comment number 820.

    106 people a year die in gym or exercise related accidents, only 14 people drop dead in front of the TV, go figure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.

    fat people should not be allowed nhs help.... why should i pay for a fat slob to have treatment when they dont help themselves"

    aaaaand why should i pay if you sprain your ankle? or if you get an STI? what if you go on holiday, return and find you need to be treated for something yo contracted? why should i pay if you get injured from a car accident? the list goes on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 818.


    "we need proper cycle lanes down the side of major carriageways."

    yes cyclists do, only because they do not know they are classed as a vehicle & should be following traffic regulations.

    And those regulations state that it is illegal to cycle on the pavement. This includes areas designated for that purpose. The original Act was never repealed to allow this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.

    I agree but why schools have limited activities ? as adults it seems that the market is spend spend spent and and unless you have a personal training you can think you are doing the right excercise but in fact you are not , television cooking shows cater with expensive diet plans why do the fail on people who want to eat healthy but cannot afford the products the professionals use

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    803 The first work on vitamins was published in the same peer reviewed journal as the report above you are rubbishing, and that work was also published on this site as a story in the same way, in 2004.

  • rate this

    Comment number 815.

    I see the BBC have given us a decent story to comment on, Stephanie Flanders on the proposed £50b investment by the Gov. I keep trying to post but it keeps saying I have to complete my registration, obviously done or I wouldn't be posting on here. Will some one report me as I am off topic then maybe they will read this and realise their web pages are rubbish and not working.

  • rate this

    Comment number 814.

    'Inactivity 'killing as many as smoking''

    That's me doubly screwed then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 813.

    I cycle to and from work (come wind rain or shine) averaging 150-200 miles per week (depending on the route I use).
    It's really not difficult even in rubbish weather and it's a lot cheaper than private or public transport, even taking the cost of a bike into consideration.
    I've not been to the doctors in the last 20 years for anything other than holiday jabs and I'm never ill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 812.

    @782. v49080, that probably explains why Greece has a higher obesity level than England (according to a Frobes list from 2007).


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