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Sedentary Lifestyle Just As Deadly As Smoking

A week after a study was released showing that people who sit for long periods of time often have shorter life-spans, a newly released study has found that physical inactivity is the cause of as many premature deaths as smoking.

A new study, released today in The Lancet, takes a look at the global health problem of widespread physical inactivity. Researchers found that the worldwide effect of physical inactivity is the cause of around 5.3 million premature deaths a year. This is a staggering number that is comparable to the 5 million worldwide deaths per year caused by smoking. While the number of smokers remains less than the number of physically inactive people around the world, making smoking more dangerous to those who are inactive, the problem of physical inactivity alone is quickly becoming a global pandemic as it is affecting every age range.

The study also found that in higher income countries the rate of inactivity was far greater than other nations. Worldwide the figures for adults show that 1 in 3 do not receive enough physical activity. For teens between the ages of 13 and 15, the numbers indicate that 4 out of 5 are not getting enough activity in. When looking at the American teen numbers, you can also see how physical inactivity is propelling the childhood obesity epidemic across the country.

As nation's have progressed and industrialized, humans have relied on motorized means of transportation, immediately cutting out a large amount of physical activity in their methods of getting around. The study shows that in countries like China, Germany, and Sweden, many employees, 20% to be accurate, walk to work and get in a good amount of exercise without ever having to go to a gym. In comparison, the U.S. shows only 4% of the population walk to work and 2% will ride bicycles.

Lack of exercise or driving ourselves to work instead of walking or cycling is not the only part of the problem. The study has also shown that society sits way too much and for long periods of time.  The U.S. numbers show that 42% of adults sit for more than 4 hours a day (at work and at home); while 72% of our teens are watching more than 2 hours of television a day (though the time of said television watching was not reported).

The lack of exercise is contributing to a global health problem of chronic disease and premature deaths. Some of the ailments caused or exacerbated by physical inactivity include heart attacks, strokes, type II diabetes, and some forms of cancer. The benefits of being physically active can add years onto your life, as it helps control bloods pressure and sugars, help balance good and bad cholesterol, keep bones and joints strong and healthy, keeps body weight down, and builds and/or maintains muscle.

The Olympics are right around the corner. We will all be sedentary watching the games on television, or, if you are lucky enough, in London as a spectator. It is time to take some real lessons from these athletes and start to move ourselves. Use this summer's games as an opportunity to encourage your family, especially your children, to get up and move. Make a plan and stick to it, your family can be your best cheerleaders. You don't need an expensive gym membership or a personal trainer to make this positive change. You simply need to turn off the TV, leave the keys in a drawer, and go.

Sources: WebMD BBC News USA Today The Lancet
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