‘Substantial’ Rates of Death & Disease Linked to Inactivity

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Almost one in every 14 deaths is because of physical inactivity, a new study suggests.

Some 7.2% of deaths around the world are attributable to inactivity, new research suggests.

And this rises to 7.6% when only looking at deaths attributable to heart or blood vessel disease, according to the study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Researchers, led by experts at the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in the USA, examined inactivity and the link between some major causes of ill health.

Inactivity is linked to 8.1% of dementia cases around the world, but just 1.6% of cases of high blood pressure, they found.

The researchers, who reviewed the scientific literature on inactivity and death and disease, also found higher rates in higher-income countries. 

In higher-income countries, almost one in every 10 (9.3%) deaths are attributed to physical inactivity.

But the authors cautioned that 69% of total deaths and 74% of cardiovascular disease deaths associated with physical inactivity occur in middle-income countries because of their population size.

People are urged to get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity.

Physical inactivity is a known risk factor for premature death and several diseases, including coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and several cancers.

“The global burden associated with physical inactivity is substantial,” the authors wrote.

“The relative burden is greatest in high-income countries; however, the greatest number of people affected by physical inactivity are living in middle-income countries given the size of their populations.”

It comes as a separate study that examined the links between physical activity and air pollution.

Researchers from South Korea examined data on 1.5 million people aged 20 to 39 and followed them for five years to 2018.

Information was gathered on their exercise habits and correlated with data from the air monitoring system.

The authors found that while physical activity is important in preventing heart and blood vessel disease, very strenuous activity on days when air pollution levels are high was linked to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular problems, according to the study, published in the European Heart Journal.

Dr. Seong Rae Kim said: “Excessive physical activity may not always be beneficial for cardiovascular health in younger adults when they are exposed to high concentrations of air pollution.”

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