Physical inactivity as damaging to health as smoking

ABC News

By (@mikaelaconley)


Physical inactivity has a negative global impact so severe that its adverse effects on health are comparable to that of smoking or obesity, according to a new study.

What's more, the researchers say the problem of inactivity is so bad that it should be considered a pandemic.

The study is just one in a special series of reports in the journal Lancet, timed -- in an ironic twist -- to coincide with the Olympics.

Specifically, the scientists found that inactivity was responsible for 5.3 million out of 57 million deaths throughout the world in 2008, and it caused around one in 10 deaths globally, which is comparable to the effects of smoking. The researchers also, for the first time ever, analyzed and quantified the global impact of physical inactivity on some of the world's most prominent diseases.

In the first article, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School estimated that a failure to spend at least 150 minutes per week doing moderate physical activity, such as briskly walking for 30 minutes, contributed to an average of 6 percent to 10 percent of several diseases worldwide, including type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer and coronary heart disease.

"Physical inactivity and obesity both have deleterious effects on [these] diseases," Dr. I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study, told "Our findings described above examined the effects of inactivity, after taking into account the adverse effect of obesity. Thus, the results may be an underestimate of the true effect, since physical activity helps to control body weight."


Read the full article here.