Exercise Deficit Disorder: A disorder of the new generation

Previously CSM4ed blogs have focused on the physical inactivity epidemic sweeping the globe (Physical activity: The silver bullet; Sports medicine: Promoting health and physical activity; Get up and get moving). There is an undeniable association between physical inactivity and premature death, caused by obesity, type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The desire for quick fixes and convenient technologies has driven mankind into a perilous position. A third of adults and four fifths of adolescents worldwide fall short of the World Health Organisation’s public health guidelines for physical activity.1-2

It is time to acknowledge that modern lifestyles have affected levels of physical activity forever. Even riding a bike to work is now considered extremely dangerous and a waste of time by many people. Knowing that prevention is better than a cure it seems reasonable to begin educating people as early as possible about the benefits of physical activity and the evils of physical inactivity. Dr Avery Faigenbaum from the Department of Health and Exercise Science at The College of New Jersey has published a number of papers on paediatric physical inactivity and childhood obesity. Dr. Faigenbaum has recently coined the phrase ‘exercise deficit disorder’ (EDD). He defines it as ‘… a term used to describe a condition characterized by reduced levels of regular physical activity that are below recommendations consistent with positive health outcomes.’3-4

Dr. Faigenbaum has shown that regular physical activity can positively affect growth and motor development and the habits of childhood carry over into adult life. Current global epidemiological data indicate that children have dramatically reduced their physical activity in the modern era. This decline appears to commence around the age of six years, when physical activity levels should be thriving. This appears to be a crucial age to promote physical activity and identify children who are at-risk of developing inactive habits. We have to catch them early.

Although it may sound counterintuitive or unnecessary, habitual physical activity needs to be prescribed by healthcare professionals. The term ‘exercise deficit disorder’ was developed to establish a starting point for these interventions. Participation in games, age-appropriate play and sport should be viewed as essential, rather than optional and the modern health professional is obliged to educate parents, school administrators and policy makers about the link between physical inactivity and poor health.


  1. Hallal PC, Andersen LB, Bull FC et. al. ‘Global physical activity levels: surveillance progress, pitfalls, and prospects’ The Lancet 2012 380( 9838): 247-257
  2. WHO. ‘Global health risks: mortality and burden of disease attributable to selected major risks.’ Geneva: World Health Organization, 2009.
  3. Faigenbaum AD, Myer GD. ‘Exercise deficit disorder in youth: play now or pay later’ Curr Sports Med Rep 2012 11(4):196-200.
  4. Faigenbaum AD, Stracciolini A,  Myer GD ‘Exercise deficit disorder in youth: a hidden truth’ Acta Paediatrica 2011 100: 1423–1425

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