So how big an effect is physical inactivity? We hear all the time how terrible physical inactivity is but just how bad. Now comes an answer. Some 39 collaborators, part of the Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group have published an analysis of the burden of physical inactivity on disease and life expectancy.
The researchers calculated population attributable fractions associated with physical inactivity “using conservative assumptions for each of the major non-communicable diseases by country, to estimate how much disease could be averted if physical inactivity were eliminated.”
They estimated that, worldwide, physical inactivity causes, for coronary heart disease, between 3.2% in southeast Asia to 7/8% in the eastern Mediterranean. For type 2 diabetes, physical inactivity contributes 7%, 10% of breast cancer and 10% of colon cancer. “Inactivity,” they calculate, “causes 9% or more of premature mortality or more than 5.3 million of the 57 million deaths that occurred worldwide in 2008. If physical inactivity were eliminated, life expectancy of the world’s population would increase by 0.68 years (range of 0.41-0.95).
That’s it? 8 months? Well, that’s for both the active and inactive population. If you look at just having the physically inactive reach recommended levels of physical fitness, it is estimated that inactive people would gain 1.3 to 3.7 years from age 50 on in the United States. In East Asia, life expectancy from age 30 increased by 2.6 to 4.2 years. That’s a bit more meaningful. PubMed: Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide