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Lack of exercise as 'deadly' as smoking

Inactivity is “as deadly as smoking” reported the Daily Mail, describing how a lack of exercise is now causing as many deaths as smoking across the world.

The headline is based on a study published in the Lancet that estimates the burden of physical inactivity on global deaths and major diseases including coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and breast and colon cancer. Researchers estimate that lack of exercise could be responsible for around one in 10 cases of heart disease (10.5%) and just under one in five cases (18.7%) of colon cancer in the UK.

It estimated that overall, physical inactivity caused more than 5.3 million of the 57 million deaths that occurred worldwide in 2008. The researchers suggest this is equivalent to the 5 million deaths attributed to smoking in 2000 - a point that made the headlines. It is unclear whether these two estimates were based on studies with similar methods and so they may not be directly comparable.

Many of the headlines could be seen as misleading as smoking rates are lower than the number of inactive people in developed countries - this arguably making smoking more risky than being inactive. Still, this research provides an accurate assessment of the dangers to your health being physically inactive can bring.

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