News / Health

While Olympians Peak, Lack of Activity Remains a Leading Global Cause of Death

United States'  Allyson Felix crosses the finish line to win the women's 200-meters final ahead of compatriot Carmelita Jeter, left, and Ivory Coast's Murielle Ahoure, at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
United States' Allyson Felix crosses the finish line to win the women's 200-meters final ahead of compatriot Carmelita Jeter, left, and Ivory Coast's Murielle Ahoure, at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Rosanne Skirble
Physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide. Seeking to raise awareness about the problem, the British journal, The Lancet, is highlighting the problem during the Olympic Games, when attention is focused on athletes at the top of their game.  

Lack of exercise also contributes to up to 10 percent of deaths worldwide from diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and colon and breast cancer, according to the special issue of the Lancet.

The impact of physical inactivity is comparable to smoking, says Harvard University epidemiologist I. Min Lee, who worked with a team to produce the Lancet report, comparing data on physical inactivity with disease prevalence in 122 countries.

Lee says the findings are conservative and may even underestimate the problem.
Physical Inactivity Kills
Physical Inactivity Killsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X


 “When we did our analysis,” she says, “we looked at increased risk of disease after taking into account other health habits that may be associated with physical activity." For example, Lee adds,"We know that if you are active, you probably smoke less. Additionally we factored out obesity, independent of the fact that active people also tend to weigh less.”

Also writing in the Lancet, epidemiologist Harold Kohl with the University of Texas School of Public Health, says physical inactivity, because of its global reach, high prevalence and harm, should be recognized as a global pandemic. 
An obese person might not only die sooner, but could also experience years of poor health.An obese person might not only die sooner, but could also experience years of poor health.
x
An obese person might not only die sooner, but could also experience years of poor health.
An obese person might not only die sooner, but could also experience years of poor health.

“We have to realize that high income countries are the most inactive around the world, but low to middle income countries are not going to be far behind as things change, as their economies improve and their people rely more on the improvements that basically engineer physical activity out of our daily lives.”

Kohl points to focused campaigns that continue to reduce smoking and alcohol use, arguing it is time to target physical inactivity as a major threat to public health.   

He says reducing inactivity is not only the responsibility of the individual, but of the community, “how we rely on the transportation sector or how our cities or neighborhoods are designed, how crime can be minimized to help people become more physically active in their neighborhoods, simply walking to the store or walking down and being outside with friends and family."

Kohl says these broader environmental issues are becoming much clearer in terms of their effects.
        
Lee agrees, and hopes the numbers in her Lancet study jumpstart change, including the challenge to do 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise a week.

“Anything you can do is great,” she says. "Even if you don’t reach that 150 minutes a week, a little is better than none and more is better than a little.”
   
And, she adds, just like the Olympics, she intends to return every four years with a report to gauge how all of us are doing.

You May Like

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid