Inactivity as Deadly as Smoking, Research Shows

Inactivity is as deadly as smoking experts warn, so if you’re sitting down reading this while puffing on a Pall Mall, you might want to listen up.

Inactivity has emerged in recent years as a silent killer, and one that is ever an increasing threat as more and more people acquire mostly sedentary lives. Previous studies have shown that sitting for more than six hours a day, regardless of exercise level, can lead to early death even in thin people — but now experts warn that a new study shows the impact of inactivity to be on par with that of one of the deadliest acts in which humans can willingly engage over time, smoking.

The study, published in the medical journal the Lancet, posits that inactivity is killing 5.3 million people worldwide, and is serious enough to be considered a pandemic. Various obesity-related cancers and circulatory disorders contribute to the problem, and experts spoke to the BBC about how using the high-profile Olympic games as a springboard for raising awareness about the grave health threat inactivity represents.

Sitting study finds that being seated three hours a day decreases life expectancy.

Pedro Hallal is one of the lead researchers on the multi-national study, and he explains:

“Although the world will be watching elite athletes from many countries compete in sporting events… most spectators will be quite inactive. The global challenge is clear – make physical activity a public health priority throughout the world to improve health and reduce the burden of disease.”

Some public health advocates focusing on cancer, however, feel that the comparison denigrates the seriousness of cancer when compared with a controllable health condition. Dr. Claire Knight of Cancer Research UK told the BBC:

“When it comes to preventing cancer, stopping smoking is by far the most important thing you can do.”

To combat the risks of inactivity, adults are advised to get 150 minutes of exercise each week, via activities like brisk walking or biking.