Physically Inactive Patients Much More Likely to Die Early

Ryan Marotta, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016
An hour or more of physical activity a day can mitigate the risk of heart disease and early death associated with sitting for 8 or more hours each day.
A recent meta-analysis published in Lancet evaluated data on more than 1 million patients across 16 previous studies. The patients were divided into 4 groups depending on their reported level of moderate intensity physical activity, ranging from less than 5 minutes per day in the bottom group to more than 60 minutes in the top.
Based on the analysis, the research team determined that 60 to 75 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day effectively eliminated the increased risk of early death associated with sitting for 8 or more hours per day.
“There has been a lot of concern about the health risks associated with today’s more sedentary lifestyles,” said study author Ulf Ekelund, PhD, in a press release. “Our message is a positive one: it is possible to reduce - or even eliminate - these risks if we are active enough, even without having to take up sports or go to the gym.”
However, the researchers also discovered that physically inactive patients were 28% to 59% more likely to die early compared with their more active counterparts, regardless of the amount of time the patients spent sitting.
For context, this risk is comparable with those posed by smoking and obesity.
Noting that nearly 75% of the study participants didn’t partake in 60 to 75 minutes of moderate exercise each day, the study authors ultimately concluded that a deficiency of physical activity is a greater health risk than prolonged sitting.
“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,” Dr. Ekelund stated. “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.”
This may prove a formidable challenge, as American adults working full time report working about 47 hours each week, and almost 40% of workers report working more than 50 hours per week.
Retail clinicians looking to encourage their patients to kick start a healthier exercise routine can educate patients on the many benefits of regular physical activity. In addition to helping patients lose weight and manage their cholesterol, exercise is also associated with reduced risks of Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and several types of cancer.
Additionally, regular exercise has found to be safe in pregnant women and linked to a lower risk of moderate to severe respiratory distress syndrome, reduced odds of low birth weight, and shorter hospital stays after delivery.

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