Physical inactivity kills. Of the approximately 57 million deaths worldwide expected this year, about 5.3 million of them will be premature deaths in which a lack of physical activity was the contributing factor, says I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard and lead researcher on the study being published online in The Lancet. Physical inactivity is as serious a risk factor for premature death as the risks from smoking tobacco and being obese, she says.
For the study, Lee and colleagues used a statistical model to calculate how many premature deaths could be prevented if people moved more. Among the findings:
- If the level of physical inactivity in the overall population of the world decreased by 10%, it could reduce the number of premature deaths by 533,000 annually. If the level of inactivity decreased by 25%, about 1.3 million premature deaths would be avoided globally every year.
- If physical inactivity could be eliminated totally, life expectancy for the world's population would rise by 0.68 years.