Jul 22, 2012

Physical inactivity can contribute to premature deaths

Physical inactivity kills. It is causing about one in 10 premature deaths around the world annually, says an analysis out today.

Of the approximately 57 million deaths worldwide expected this year, about 5.3 million of them will be premature deaths in which a lack of physical activity was the contributing factor, says I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and lead researcher on the study being published online in The Lancet.Physical inactivity is a serious risk factor for premature death, similar to the risk from smoking tobacco and being obese, she says.Research shows that being physically active helps control blood pressure and blood sugar and lowers bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol. It lowers the risk of heart attacks and stroke, developing type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Exercise helps control weight, improves bone and joint health and builds stronger muscles.
With the Olympics starting soon, now is "a good time to remind ourselves that we were meant to be physically active," Lee says. "It's good for our health. We may not be Olympians, but almost all of us can walk 15 to 30 minutes a day which would improve health."The U.S. government's physical activity guidelines recommend that people do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of a vigorous-intensity activity, such as jogging or swimming laps, or a combination of the two types.
For The Lancet study, Lee and colleagues used a statistical model to calculate how many premature deaths could be prevented if people moved more. Among the findings:•If the level of physical inactivity in the overall population of the world decreased by 10%, it could reduce the number of premature deaths by 533,000 annually. If the level of inactivity decreased by 25%, about 1.3 million premature deaths would be avoided globally every year.•If physical inactivity could be eliminated totally, life expectancy for the world's population would rise by 0.68 years.Russell Pate, an exercise researcher at the University of South Carolina, says, this study "makes a point that really needs to be made. We need everybody to understand and appreciate just how important physical activity is. It's on everyone's list of positive health behaviors, but it's not as high on the list as it should be. This is a global problem, not just U.S. problem."
Lee also was one of the researchers on a study published July 9 that showed that if people spent less than three hours a day sitting, it would add two years to the average U.S. life expectancy. And if they cut the time they spent on the couch watching TV to less than two hours a day, it would add 1.4 years to overall life expectancy.


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