Harvard Heart Letter

Impact of inactivity assessed

Lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for heart attack, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancers. Because so much of the population in the developed world is inactive, this single factor contributes to a significant public health problem. Harvard researchers wondered what the impact on public health would be if physical inactivity were eliminated or reduced. Using data for different geographical areas, they determined that physical inactivity is responsible for 6% of the burden of coronary artery disease, 7% of diabetes, and 10% of breast and colon cancers, and that it caused 9% of premature deaths (5.3 million) worldwide in 2008. Improving physical activity by only 10% to 25% could prevent 533,000 to 1.3 million deaths every year, the researchers calculated.

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