You may be surprised to learn that inactivity has become Public Enemy No. 1. Sedentary lifestyle plagues a great swathe of humanity and today’s made-easy world only helps to make it worse. Sitting is what most of us do throughout the day. Coupled with no regular exercise, it’s a recipe for chronic poor health. Let’s look at some recent researches and hear from experts the world over with concurrence that sedentary lifestyle helps to kill as many people as smoking.

Dr. Emma Wilmot, diabetes research group, University of Leicester in Britain, analysed 18 existing studies involving some 800,000 people. It was discovered that there was 147% increase in the risk of heart attack or stroke; 112% increase in the risk of developing diabetes; 90% greater risk of dying from a cardiac event and 49% greater risk of premature mortality. She pointed out that prolonged sitting also sharply reduces glucose and insulin secretion which are key factors in developing diabetes.

Physical activity really matters to your heart, brain, bones and sexual health. There is compelling evidence that inactivity now kills as many people as smoking does every year. In modern society, very few people meet minimal recommended activity standards. There are revelations that only 15% of adults and 7% of children meet the required activity guidelines. Light ambulation where you move around at regular intervals instead of just sitting is also important. In Canada for instance, the average adult spends 50-70% of their daily lives sitting the other 30% sleeping. One in three adults worldwide fails to meet the 150 minutes per week of minimum recommended moderate aerobic physical activity. In the UK, according to the BBC, two out of three adults don't manage it.


Renowned medical publication The Lancet’s researchers, estimate that lack of exercise is responsible for about 5.3 million deaths a year or about the same number as smoking.

Dr I-Min Lee, School of Public Health, Harvard University, aptly cites "Everything that gets worse when we get older gets better when we exercise".

Four out of five 13-15 year olds globally do not do the recommended 60 minutes of activity every day. 

She also warned that a third of people who do not engage in exercise regularly, occupy a dangerous risk zone. According to Dr. Lee, smoking causes about 5 million deaths per year worldwide and this is slightly less than the 5.3 million lives lost in the same period due to lack of regular exercise!

The Harvard researchers studied the relationship between physical inactivity and the leading non-communicable diseases that kill people worldwide. Conditions set were those the World Health Organization identifies as global health threats, namely heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes. Cancer, specifically breast and colon cancer which have been linked to physical inactivity, was also included.

The results revealed that 6% to 10% of disease cases are caused by inactivity and concluded that if the periods of inactivity were completely abolished, we could save 5.3 million lives per year while the average global life expectancy would extend by 6 months and 24 days. The researchers say the problem of inactivity has reached pandemic levels with far-reaching health, economic, environmental and social consequences. 

The University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Department of Health conducted studies to reveal that 20% of all deaths of people 35 and older were attributed to lack of physical activity. That was more deaths than attributed to smoking. The risk of dying from cancer increased 45% for men and 28% for women while the risk of dying from respiratory ailments was 92% higher for men and 75% higher for women. Additionally, the risk of dying from heart disease was 52% higher for men and 28% higher for women. All these are due to a lack of physical activity.