Friday 20 July 2012

Physical inactivity kills 5 million a year: Report

AFP, 18 Jul 2012 

PARIS - A third of the world's adults are physically inactive, and the couch potato lifestyle kills about five million people every year, experts say.

'Roughly three of every 10 individuals aged 15 years or older - about 1.5 billion people - do not reach present physical activity recommendations,' they said in a series of reports published in the medical journal The Lancet yesterday to coincide with the build-up to the Olympics.

The picture for adolescents is even more worrying, with four out of five 13- to 15-year-olds not moving enough, it said.

Physical inactivity was described for the study as failing to do 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five times a week, 20 minutes of vigorous activity three times a week, or a combination of the two.

Inactivity increases with age, is higher in women than in men, and more prevalent in high-income countries, the researchers found.

The study's lead author, Dr Pedro Hallal, from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, blamed the levels of inactivity on advances in technology, including motor vehicles, which changed the way people lived and work.

'With the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games, sport and physical activity will attract tremendous worldwide attention. Although the world will be watching elite athletes... compete in sporting events, most spectators will be quite inactive,' the BBC quoted Dr Hallal as saying.

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

A second study, comparing physical activity levels with population statistics on diseases such as diabetes, heart problems and cancer, said lack of exercise claimed more than 5.3 million of the 57 million deaths worldwide in 2008.

It said inactivity was a risk factor comparable to smoking or obesity.

Lack of exercise causes an estimated 6 per cent of coronary heart disease cases, 7 per cent of Type 2 diabetes (the most common form) and 10 per cent of breast and colon cancers, it said.

Reducing inactivity by 10 per cent could eliminate more than half a million deaths every year, the report estimated.

The human body needs exercise to help the bones, muscles, heart and other organs function optimally, but populations are walking, running and cycling less and less as they spend more time in cars and in front of computers, the investigators said.

The Lancet series called for global efforts to promote physical exercise by improving pedestrian and cyclist safety on city roads, for example, more physical education in school or promoting access to free public exercise spaces.

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