Inactivity A Pandemic As Deadly As Smoking

By Amir Khan on July 18, 2012 9:03 AM EDT

Sedentary Lifestyle
As the western lifestyle becomes increasingly more sedentary, the lack of activity is posing a real threat to our health, according to a new study, (Photo: Creative Commons)

As the western lifestyle becomes increasingly more sedentary, the lack of activity is posing a real threat to our health, according to a new study, published in the journal the Lancet. Researchers found that a lack of exercise is now causing just as many deaths as smoking.

Researchers conducted the study in advance of the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics in London and found that a third of adults are not doing enough physical activity, and it's causing 5.3 million deaths every year.

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The lack of activity is responsible for one in every 10 deaths from diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and breast and colon cancer. It's getting so bad, researchers said it should be classified as a pandemic.

"With the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games, sport and physical activity will attract tremendous worldwide attention," Pedro Hallal, one of the 33 authors who worked on the study, told BBC News. Although the world will be watching elite athletes from many countries compete in sporting events, most spectators will be quite inactive."

Hallal said the world needs to put a priority on getting people up and active.

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

Not all experts agreed, however. Dr. Claire Knight, a researcher with Cancer Research UK, told BBC News that to equate inactivity with smoking is a false analogy.

"When it comes to preventing cancer, stopping smoking is by far the most important thing you can do," she said.

Lindsey Davies, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, however, told BBC News that getting people active should be number one on the world's to-do list.

"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."

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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