According to the British journal The Lancet, lack of physical activity is responsible for one out of every ten deaths in the world, about as many as tobacco or obesity. In 2008 alone, physical inactivity would therefore be responsible for 5.3 million deaths out of the 57 million documented around the world. Between 60 and 85% of adults do not move enough. Average physical activity has fallen to one hour per day in 2000.
The role of physical activity continues to be undervalued despite evidence of its protective effects, says Harold W. Kohl (University of Texas) in The Lancet. He adds that much needs to be done to fully address this global issue.
Moderate (at least 20 minutes three times per week) or intense physical activity (at least 3 hours per week) decreases by 30% the risk of early mortality. Furthermore, regularly engaging in sports improves emotional wellbeing, physical wellbeing, quality of life and self-perception. A beneficial role which is observed in teenagers and seniors alike. Several studies also show that the quality of life of those suffering from chronic illnesses also improves with exercise, as well as for those with certain types of handicaps, when coached by trainers specialized in these pathologies.
Doctor I-Min Lee (Harvard Medical School in Boston) highlights in The Lancet that 6 to 10% of cases of the four major non communicable diseases (cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer) could be linked to exercising less than 150 minutes per week. That is the WHO’s recommended average. The WHO recommends, for example, 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week.
According to another study carried out in 122 countries and led by Doctor Pedro C. Hallal (University of Pelotas, Brazil), cited in the British journal, one third of adults and four teenagers out of five around the world don’t get enough physical exercise, which increases by 20 to 30% the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
“In most countries, inactivity rises with age, is higher in women than in men (34% compared to 28%), and is increased in high-income countries“, says Mr. Hallal. By promoting physical activity, life expectancy could grow by about 8 months, say specialists. In other words, decreasing global lack of activity by only 10% would amount to saving the lives of 533,000 people every year.
Why is lack of physical activity synonymous with premature aging? We know that a sedentary lifestyle leads, at the level of fat cells, to an epigenetic change which activates certain genes, or suppresses others, which protect our DNA.