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The solution to so many preventable diseases

A recent study published in The Lancet  aimed to quantify the effect of physical inactivity on the world’s major non-communicable diseases (coronary heart disease, breast /colon cancers and type 2 diabetes).1 The results are astonishing. It is estimated that globally, physical inactivity is the primary cause of 6% of all coronary heart disease, 7% of type 2 diabetes, 10% of breast cancer, and 10% of colon cancer. In other words, for every one in ten people diagnosed with breast or colon cancer the primary cause is physical inactivity. Physical inactivity caused 9% of premature mortality, or more than 5·3 million of 57 million deaths worldwide in 2008. The authors also calculated that if inactivity levels were reduced by 25%, more than 1·3 million deaths could be prevented each year. How much more evidence do we need to encourage inactive individuals to start changing their behaviour?

This year’s Christmas edition of the British Journal of Medicine, features an editorial by Professor Bauman and Professor Blair, well known advocates of regular physical activity.2 The editorial reports that more than four decades of epidemiological data concludes that those who undertake a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity have a higher life expectancy than sedentary people. With the solution to so many preventable diseases in their palm of their hands, why do so many people continue to ignore these important messages? This is not an easy question to answer but it is an important question to ask.References

  1. Lee IM, Shiroma EJ, Lobelo F, et. al. ‘Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy.’ The Lancet 2012 380(9838):219-29
  2. Bauman AE, Blair SN. ‘Everyone could enjoy the “survival advantage” of elite athletes.’ BMJ 2012 345(dec13 8):e8338-e

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