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Inactivity Is "as Deadly as Smoking"

Physical inactivity is a global "pandemic" that causes more total deaths than smoking, says a new report.

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By May Wilkerson

07/18/12

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If you were looking for a reason to get off the couch, a new study suggests a that lack of exercise kills as many people across the world as smoking. It's recommended that adults take at least 150 minutes of "moderate exercise" a week, which includes activities like walking, biking or gardening. But about a third of adults worldwide don't meet this quota, the report estimates—and the global death toll reaches 5.3 million a year. This encompasses roughly one in ten deaths from heart disease, breast and colon cancer and diabetes. (Comparatively, smoking causes about five million deaths a year.) The report, published in The Lancet medical journal in the lead-up to the Olympics, calls the problem a "pandemic" and hopes to push physical inactivity into the spotlight as a public health issue. Pedro Hallal, one of the lead researchers, says: "The global challenge is clear—make physical activity a public health priority throughout the world to improve health and reduce the burden of disease." However, despite similar death tolls, people should be aware that rates of smoking are much lower than rates of physical activity—so smoking remains more dangerous to individuals. As Dr. Claire Knight of Cancer Research UK says, "When it comes to preventing cancer, stopping smoking is by far the most important thing you can do."

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