‘Couch Potato’ Lifestyles Cause Up to 8% of Global Deaths

TUESDAY, March 30, 2021 (HealthDay News) – “Couch potatoes,” take note: Sedentary behavior now accounts for up to 8% of non-communicable diseases and deaths worldwide, researchers say.

Physical inactivity is a known risk factor for premature death and several non-communicable diseases, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and several cancers.

In a new study, researchers analyzed 2016 data from 168 countries. They found that the proportions of non-communicable diseases attributable to physical inactivity ranged from nearly 2% for high blood pressure to over 8% for dementia.

Physical inactivity was defined as less than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week.

People in rich countries are more than twice as likely to contract these diseases linked to physical inactivity than people in poor countries. In 2016, levels of physical inactivity in rich countries were estimated to be more than double those in low-income countries.

However, middle-income countries have the highest number of people at risk of inactivity due to their larger populations. That means they account for 69% of all deaths and 74% of heart disease deaths associated with physical inactivity worldwide.

In fact, 80% of deaths from noncommunicable diseases occur in low- and middle-income countries.

The burden of death associated with physical inactivity is highest in countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and in high-income countries in the West and Asia-Pacific, say researchers led by Peter Katzmarzyk, of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La.

The lowest rates are found in countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, and East and Southeast Asia, according to the study. The results were published online on March 29 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

This is an observational study, so it cannot establish a cause and effect. But “the public health burden associated with physical inactivity is truly a global problem that will require international collaboration to mobilize change and achieve these public health goals,” the researchers said in a press release.

In 2018, the World Health Assembly set a goal of reducing global levels of physical inactivity by 15% by 2030.

More information

The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a guide to physical activity.

SOURCE: British Journal of Sports Medicine, press release, March 29, 2021

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