A new study of over one million people – published in The Lancet on 27 July 2016 – finds that physical inactivity is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. The findings come from a new four-paper Series launched in London ahead of the Summer Olympic Games.

The authors of the Series warn that there has been too little progress in tackling the global pandemic of physical inactivity since the 2012 Olympics, with a quarter of adults worldwide still failing to meet current recommendations on physical activity.

Sitting time, physical activity and risk of death

“There has been a lot of concern about the health risks associated with today’s more sedentary lifestyles,” says lead author Professor Ulf Ekelund, the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, Norway and the University of Cambridge, UK.

“Our message is a positive one: it is possible to reduce – or even eliminate – these risks if we are active enough, even without having to take up sports or go to the gym.”

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He adds: “For many people who commute to work and have office-based jobs, there is no way to escape sitting for prolonged periods of time. For these people in particular, we cannot stress enough the importance of getting exercise, whether it’s getting out for a walk at lunchtime, going for a run in the morning or cycling to work.”

Time spent watching TV

The research team also looked at time sitting watching TV for over three hours per day as an increased risk of death. Many hours watching TV may indicate an unhealthier lifestyle in general, including being less likely to take exercise. People usually watch TV in the evenings after dinner which affects their metabolism and they are also more likely to snack on unhealthy food while watching TV.

Study limited to three first-world countries

The authors warn that the study mainly included data from people aged over 45 years old from the USA, Western Europe and Australia, so may not apply to other populations.


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