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 891.

    884 Tio Terry..

    I guees that`s better than outbreaks of lockjaw..

    As an aside..

    A recent tele prog debunked the atypical assumptions of exercise regimes...with the help of Loughborough Uni. the usually sedentary, exercise phobic presenter dramatically improved his fitness with 10 mins exercise per week..t`was the intensity...


  • rate this

    Comment number 890.

    For the past few years each spring has started with our city government organizing a program which gets people out walking and doing other activities. There is step counting, prize drawings (donated by local businesses), weekend seminars promoting healthy eating and lifestyles, and large and small group walks. Guess they were ahead of their time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 889.

    ON YA BIKE ;()

  • rate this

    Comment number 888.

    It reads above that It is recommended that adults do 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. He certainly does that . He gets about 140 minutes a week exersise , just before he goes to sleep. That is approximatly 20 minutes of moderate exercise a day. He feels very healthy & fit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 887.

    Some people seem very resistant to exercise. My Mother-in-law was recently complaining about her stiff joints, aches and pains. In fact unbeknown to her I have also recently had mild arthritic symptoms and see exercise as crucial to alleviate this. When I suggested she try some gentle exercise or short walks ( she is quite capable) she replied ' I am not taking any exercise' and left the room!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 886.

    In an effort to lose weight and get fit, i have had my hair cut and will be winding my own watch up from now on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 885.

    More junk science deflecting attention away from the primary health problem. Namely, our extreme consumption of refined sugar and refined carbohydrates. Thinking rationally, how on earth can they assess whether someone "died due to 'inactivity'"?
    Much rresearch shows that sugar is the real problem (read "Good Calories, Bad Calories"). Thanks to Bg Sugar, you won't get spoon fed that info, though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 884.

    Result ?.."

    Stiff neck, you cannot swallow so quickly as you get older!

  • rate this

    Comment number 883.

    I would have thought smoking would cause people not to exercise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 882.

    Supplant fluoride in the water supply with some viagra and alium root ( gm free corz`)...get corporate sponsorship from Lucozade and Ann Summers..

    We`ll all be fit as rabbits and happy s`well..

    Result ?..

  • rate this

    Comment number 881.

    There are far important issues facing this corrupt country.

    Patronising reports, research, surveys or opinion should not be headline television news in these turbulent days.

    Poor, BBC

  • rate this

    Comment number 880.

    The dismal weather in this country this year has not helped. Rain almost every day for months is not exactly conducive to going out for a run or walk or gardening.

    In any case, after having seen my father go into a nursing home, I think I would rather have a quick death from a heart attack than go through an extended old age of misery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 879.

    867.Otto Sump
    I'm totally for free choice. No-one is nannying you. They are just giving you the well researched facts. If you don't like them, don't read them. If you don't want to follow the advice, don't bother. If you don't care that you might die early, don't expect us to care either, we don't.
    @ And Winston came to love Big Brother. Health Stasi tripe. And who are 'We' who don't care?

  • rate this

    Comment number 878.

    justin de shed

    97. AndyC555

    150 minutes is NOTHING...I can't believe so few adults manage that a week. I currently do 420 hours of ballet every week"

    I'm guessing maths isn't a requirement for a ballet dancer.
    Perhaps she meant 42 ?.... a bit of common sense perhaps.

    Oh no: I rather like the idea of ballet sending one into an alternative reality!

  • rate this

    Comment number 877.

    We've been told we will have to work well into our 70's, so if retirement is not an option then why bother trying to live longer. I'm fed up with being told how to live my life. Tried to stay healthy, had an active lifestyle but still got breast cancer. This is just another pointless piece of research.

  • rate this

    Comment number 876.

    Government Health Warning: You must work from when you get up to when you go to bed. Taking breaks, eating nice food, or enjoying yourself is possible fatal. have a long, unpleasant, and profitable (to us life). Funny how you never hear any warnings about over-doing it, which is also very bad for you isn't it? I do a couple of sessions of dancing, around 2hrs per week. More than enough I think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 875.

    Of course if we as humans ALL did more exercise led healthier lives, didn't drink too much, no smoking, drugs etc The governments would have to think of how to deal with the population explosion as we would all live 10-15 years longer - Not as easy as the do gooders think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 874.

    So many comments here whose only solution to this "problem" (if it is one) is more sport. Notwithstanding what the media would have us believe, many of us hate sport, avoided it at school and do not want to do it now. We are not a "great sporting nation." What we do need, however, is to walk rather than drive short distances, walk upstairs rather than using the lift, etc. Sport? No thanks!

  • rate this

    Comment number 873.

    I fear what we are seeing here with this 'news story' is the very beginning of a long and steady process that will eventually lead to the general public's indoctrination with the idea that compulsory exercise is a good thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 872.

    Quelle surprise...

    Being inactive ain`t quite so good fer you, as being active..

    And.........hold......keep holding....and .....RELAX...

    I is knackered %*....


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