Risks of Physical Inactivity

Are you physically active? You may have more reason to be after reading these startling statistics on physical inactivity from the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to WHO, physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor in global mortality. It is only outstripped by high blood pressure (13 percent) and tobacco use (9 percent) and carries the same level of risk as high blood glucose (6 percent).

In fact some 3.2 million people die each year because they are not active enough, WHO says. Globally, one in three adults is not active enough.

And physical inactivity is on the rise in many countries, adding to the burden of noncommunicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes, and affecting general health worldwide.

WHO notes that people who are insufficiently active have a 20 percent to 30 percent increased risk of death compared to people who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days of the week.

Another interesting takeaway: in high-income countries, 41 percent of men and 48 percent of women were insufficiently physically active, compared to 18 percent of men and 21 percent of women in low-income countries.

Low or decreasing physical activity levels often correspond with a high or rising gross national product, WHO reports.

The decline in physical activity is partly due to inaction during leisure time and sedentary behavior on the job and at home. Likewise, an increase in the use of “passive† modes of transportation also contributes to physical inactivity.

It’s important not to confuse physical activity with exercise.

WHO defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure – including activities undertaken while working, playing, carrying out household chores, traveling and engaging in recreational pursuits.

Exercise (a subset of physical activity) is planned structured, repetitive, and aims to improve or maintain one or more components of physical fitness.

So what do we need to do to reduce our risk?

For children and adolescents WHO recommends 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity per day.

For adults (18+), the recommendation is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on mortality risk.

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