Studies: Hour of daily activity counters deathly effects of sitting, but ‘inactive lifestyles are just accepted,’ even by teenagers


By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Most of us spend too many hours sitting, and research says it’s slowly killing us, but a new study says that just one hour of physical activity a day could eliminate the risk of early death that comes from sitting eight hours a day — a level of activity 29 percent of Kentucky adults fail to achieve.

“There has been a lot of concern about the health risks associated with today’s more sedentary lifestyles,” lead researcher Ulf Ekelund told Medical News Today. “For many people who commute to work and have office-based jobs, there is no way to escape sitting for prolonged periods of time. For these people in particular, we cannot stress enough the importance of getting exercise, whether it’s getting out for a walk at lunchtime, going for a run in the morning or cycling to work. An hour of physical activity per day is the ideal, but if this is unmanageable, then at least doing some exercise each day can help reduce the risk.”

The study found that only one in four participants in the study exercised an hour or more a day, which reflects the national average. The rate is a bit higher in Kentucky, where 29 percent of adults are physically inactive and 40 percent of those aged 65 and older are, according to the 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a continuing national poll by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition, Kentucky’s youth could be setting themselves up for early deaths by not being physically active. Almost 17 percent of the state’s high school students reported that they had not been physically active for at least 60 minutes in the previous seven days, and 63 percent said they had not been physically active at least 60 minutes per day on five or more days in the same time frame, according to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System.

The CDC recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of weekly, moderate-intensity, aerobic activity such as brisk walking. That amounts to 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week. It also recommends muscle-strengthening activities that work all muscle groups at least two days a week. For information on how individuals and organizations can promote physical activity, from the “Step it Up, Kentucky” campaign, see

The research, which analyzed 16 studies that included data from over a million people, also found that watching television for three hours or more a day was linked with an increased risk of early death, regardless of physical activity, except among those who were the most physically active. Death was significantly increased in those who watched television for five hours or more a day, says the report. It was published July 27 in The Lancet, the leading British medical journal.

Many of Kentucky’s high-school students fall into this risk for early death, with 40 percent saying that on an average school day, they played videos or computer games or used a computer three or more hours a day on something that was not school related. One-fourth said they watch three or more hours of TV per day on an average school day.

The World Health Organization says physical inactivity, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some cancers, depression and an increased risk of falls, has been identified as the fourth-leading risk factor for death for people all around the world.

A separate article published in the same issue of The Lancet found that the total worldwide cost of physical inactivity is at least $67.5 billion, and is expected to rise if not addressed. The estimated costs to the the United States, in 2013 dollars, is about $28 billion annually, Health Day reports.

“The current economic cost of physical inactivity is borne mainly by high-income countries. However, as low- and middle-income countries develop, and if the current trajectory of inactivity continues, so too will the economic burden in low- and middle-income countries who are currently poorly equipped to deal with chronic diseases linked to physical inactivity,” researcher Dr. Melody Ding, of the University of Sydney in Australia, said in a statement.

Another article in the same journal issue found that there hasn’t been much change in physical inactivity since the original research in this series of articles was published in 2012, which reported physical inactivity was a global pandemic that required urgent action.

“Physical inactivity contributes to an estimated 5.3 million deaths each year, similar to the number of deaths attributed to tobacco use and obesity,” lead author James F. Sallis said in a University of California San Diego news release.

“Because activity has not changed, how many lives have been lost?” he asked. “We’ve wasted four years. There is great evidence that this is one of the big challenges in public health, but the actionable response has not been impressive or systematic. Inactive lifestyles are just accepted.”

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