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Inactivity May Kill as Many Worldwide as Smoking: Report
Date:7/18/2012

re deemed to be inactive, that figure is just 17 percent among southeast Asians. In Europe, inactivity figures run the gamut, ranging from a high of roughly 70 percent in Malta and Serbia to a low of 17 percent to 18 percent in Estonia and the Netherlands.

Accordingly, inactivity-related disease incidence differs by region as well. Heart disease deaths brought on by a sedentary lifestyle appears to be most problematic in Europe, the researchers noted, where 121,000 fatalities were linked to inactivity in 2008. By comparison, there were 60,000 such deaths in North America and 44,000 in the eastern Mediterranean area.

Yet, amidst a generally pessimistic overview, the research team strikes a hopeful note, suggesting that if physical inactivity rates were to be cut by as little as 10 percent globally, as many as 533,000 lives could be saved. That figure would rise to as high as 1.3 million if inactivity were to be sliced by as much as 25 percent.

A group of researchers from the University of Tennessee point to a number of public health measures that could be taken to do just that.

"Because even moderate physical activity such as walking and cycling can have substantial health benefits, understanding strategies that can increase these behaviors in different regions and cultures has become a public health priority," Gregory Heath, of the University of Tennessee, said in a journal news release.

Heath and his colleagues highlight the potential benefits of mass media campaigns designed to promote activity, alongside the promotion of social support networks in the form of activity clubs and free community-based exercise classes. Efforts to create safe public spaces for biking and walking are also touted as helpful in the effort to get people moving.

Meanwhile, a team led by Michael Pratt of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pointed to the promise of cellphones, and in particular text-messaging, as a way to deliver a pro-ex
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