The global burden of physical inactivity

London, UK – The global effort, undertaken by the Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group, suggests that physical inactivity is responsible for 6% of the burden of coronary heart disease and 7% of the burden of type 2 diabetes. In addition, the research group notes than one in 10 breast and colon cancers are attributed to a lack of exercise.

Dr Pamela Das, executive editor of the Lancet, said during a press conference announcing the results of the studies,”I think it’s fair to say that physical activity has been a neglected dimension of prevention and intervention worldwide. We all know that physical activity is good for us. We’re told all the time that we should be doing more of it, but today there has been quite a lot more focus —as there should be —on the individual. For a number of reasons, existing approaches to mobilize large segments of the population to do even minimal levels of physical activity are just not working.”

Dr I-Min Lee (Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA) led the study quantifying the effect of physical inactivity on major noncommunicable diseases, telling Heartwire that physical inactivity is responsible for nearly 10% of premature deaths worldwide, or more than 5.3 million deaths in 2008. Based on these estimates, physical inactivity is responsible for more premature deaths than smoking.

“Even though the Olympics have given us the opportunity to raise the level of consciousness about physical activity, I think it’s important to differentiate between physical activity and sport,” said Lee. “People think that they need to run, play tennis, or participate in high-level sport to get the benefits of activity, but that’s not the case. We know that even modest levels of physical activity—commuting to work, taking the dog for a walk, or playing with your grandchildren—can have substantial health benefits.”

The studies of the working group are published July 17, 2012 in the Lancet.