Physical inactivity is responsible for 6% of the worldwide burden of coronary heart disease and 7% of type 2 diabetes cases, as well as 10% of breast and colon cancers, according to a series of papers on lack of exercise recently published in The Lancet (380:187–306).
“It’s no coincidence that we’re publishing the series at a time when the country and much of the world is gripped with Olympic fever,” stated Dr Pamela Das, executive editor of the Lancet, at a press conference.
One paper reported that 9.4% of deaths from any cause are attributable to physical inactivity. Although the host nation of the Olympics, the UK came out particularly badly in the research. In terms of coronary heart disease, lack of exercise was said to account for 5.8% of cases worldwide, but this rises to 10.5% in the UK. If everyone were to engage in just a modest level of physical activity, this would translate into a gain of life expectancy approaching one year, said lead author Dr I-Min Lee (Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, US).
In another paper, a global survey showed that 31% of adults failed to meet public health guidelines for physical activity, defined as 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. But the figures for adolescents were worse, with more than 80% of individuals aged 13 to 15 years not doing the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. Again, UK figures left much to be desired, estimating that 63% of the population were inactive. While 46.1% of Chinese adults walk or cycle to work, this is reduced to 15% in the UK, but is even lower in Australia and some US states.
Other commentators call for better promotion of physical activity by collaborations between schools, businesses, policy makers, advocacy groups, transport agencies, and healthcare groups.