Physical inactivity causes about six to 10 per cent of major non-communicable diseases, including coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and kills around 5.3 million people a year, a new study has claimed.
A team led by I-Min Lee from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, US, estimated the global impact of physical inactivity on CHD, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer by calculating population attributable fractions – or how much of the diseases could theoretically be prevented if all people were to become sufficiently active.
They found that some six per cent of CHD cases worldwide are linked to physical inactivity, ranging from 3.2 per cent in Asia to 7.8 per cent in the Mediterranean region.
Similarly, it’s responsible for about seven per cent of type 2 diabetes cases, and 10 per cent of breast and colon cancer cases worldwide.
The team comprising of 33 researchers, drawn from centres across the world, collected and compared data from 122 countries. They found that overall, a third of adults and four out of five adolescents were insufficiently active.
Lee said that physical inactivity is a serious risk factor for premature death, similar to the risk from smoking tobacco and being obese.
The researchers believe that the problem is now so severe that it should be treated as a pandemic and advised that governments look at ways to make physical activity more convenient, affordable and safer.
With the Olympics starting soon, now is “a good time to remind ourselves that we were meant to be physically active,” Lee said. “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.”
It is recommended that adults exercise moderately for 150 minutes, by brisk walking, cycling or gardening, or 75 minutes of a vigorous-intensity activity, such as jogging or swimming laps, or a combination of the two types, each week.
Lee also was one of the researchers on a study published earlier this month that showed that if people spent less than three hours a day sitting, it would add two years to the average 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.