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Physical Inactivity Could Be Responsible For More Early Deaths Than Obesity

Obesity has long been the target of measures to prevent chronic disease and promote health. But new research suggests we might want to focus less on the scales and more on the pedometers. A study published last week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that lack of physical activity was responsible for twice as many early deaths as obesity. 

During this study, researchers analyzed data from over 340,000 people who particapted in the European Prospective Investigaion Into Cancer and Nutrition. Data included anthropometric measures and self reported physical activity over a 12 year period. The resuls indicated that roughly 337,000 deaths could be attributed to obesity, but that 676,000 were attributable to physical inactivity. The authors of the study estimated that exercising the equivalent of a 20 minute brisk walk daily could lower the risk of early death 16-30%. 

This is actually pretty good news. Obesity, now classified as a medical condition, has been very difficult to treat. So many factors - age, nutrition, activity, hormone levels, environment, gut bacteria, and sleep patterns - can all influence obesity. But physical inactivity is much easier to treat for many people. Twenty minutes per day of walking is a smaller obstacle than tackling obesity. Health clubs address several barriers to physical inactivity by providing a safe, well-lit environment, lending support and motivation throgh knowledgable staff, making exercise fun with group classes, sports, and events, and providing a place to move when the weather is bad.


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