Abstracted by Greg Arnold, DC, CSCS, July 26, 2012, from “Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy” in the Lancet 2012;380(9838):219-29. Posted July 27, 2012.
According to the World Health Organization, worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980. Of the more than 1.4 billion adults 20 years and older classified as overweight in 2008, over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese and more than 40 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2010 (1).
The World Health Organization also states that physical inactivity, a significant contributor to obesity, has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global deaths (6% of deaths globally) and is estimated to be the main cause for approximately 21–25% of breast and colon cancers, 27% of diabetes and approximately 30% of heart disease burden (2).
Now a new study (3) further calculates the true cost of physical inactivity. Using the current World Health Organization recommendations, the researchers defined physical inactivity to be:
- Less than 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity daily in children and youth aged 5–17 (4)
- Less than 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity per week or less than 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week in adults aged 18 and over (5,6)
They then obtained 2009 World Health Organization data on age-specific death rates (7) and analyzed the data using the Population Attributable Fraction (PAF) (8), a method used by epidemiologists to estimate the effect of a risk factor on disease incidence in a population.
What they found was that physical inactivity causes 6–10% of the major non-communicable diseases in the world (heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancers). Of the 57 million deaths worldwide that occurred in 2008, more than 5.3 million deaths could have been averted if all inactive people became active. In the United States, this translated to 60,000 fewer deaths from heart disease, 11,000 fewer deaths from breast cancer, and 14,000 fewer deaths from colorectal cancer. With elimination of physical inactivity, researchers stated that life expectancy of the world’s population might be expected to increase by 0.68 years.
The researchers concluded that the World Health Organization’s exercise recommendations are very attainable and that “being able to be physically active at very modest levels” (i.e., 15–30 minutes a day of brisk walking) would bring “substantial health benefits” (9,10).
Greg Arnold is a Chiropractic Physician practicing in Hauppauge, NY. You can contact Dr. Arnold directly by emailing him at PitchingDoc@msn.com or visiting his web site at: www.PitchingDoc.com
- “Obesity and Overweight” statistics from the WHO website, updated May 2012 and accessed July 26, 2012.
- “Physical Activity” – WHO website July 26, 2012.
- Lee IM. Eff ect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy . Lancet 2012;380(9838):219-29.
- “Physical Activity and Young People” – WHO website accessed July 26, 2012.
- “Physical Activity and Adults” – WHO website accessed July 26, 2012.
- “Physical Activity and Older Adults – WHO website accessed July 26, 2012.
- World Health Organization. Life tables for WHO member states. 2011.
- Rockhill B, Newman B, Weinberg C. Use and misuse of population attributable fractions. Am J Public Health 1998; 88: 15–19.
- Warburton DE, Charlesworth S, Ivey A, Nettlefold L, Bredin SS. A systematic review of the evidence for Canada’s Physical Activit Guidelines for Adults. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2010; 7: 39.
- WHO. Global recommendations on physical activity for health. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2010.