UK has third most inactive population in Europe

Two-thirds of British adults fail to take recommended amount of exercise needed to keep them healthy, research shows

The UK is home to the third most slothful population in Europe, with two-thirds of adults failing to take enough physical exercise to keep themselves healthy, according to research.

Only in Malta and Serbia do the over-15s exert themselves less than in the UK, according to data from one of a series of papers published in the Lancet medical journal.

In the UK, 63.3% of adults (with higher rates in women than in men) do not meet recommended amounts of activity, such as walking briskly for 30 minutes or more five times a week or taking more vigorous exercise for 20 minutes three times a week. In Malta, 71.9% of adults are inactive and in Serbia the proportion is 68.3%.

The most active countries are Greece, where 16% are inactive, Estonia (17%) and the Netherlands (18%). The US scores 41% and Canada 34%.

Inactivity causes between 6% and 10% of four major diseases – coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and breast and colon cancer, reported the Lancet. In 2008, it was responsible for about 5.3 million out of the 57 million deaths worldwide.

Pedro Hallal from Universidade Federal de Pelotas in Brazil and colleagues collected and compared data from 122 countries. Overall, a third of adults, and four out of five adolescents, were insufficiently active.

Hallal added: “Although the technological revolution has been of great benefit to many populations throughout the world, it has come at a major cost in terms of the contribution of physical inactivity to the worldwide epidemic of noncommunicable diseases.”

Many different things have been tried to encourage people to walk, cycle or take other exercise more often. One of the most successful is in Bogota, Columbia, reports another Lancet paper. A programme called Ciclovía closes city streets to traffic for the use of walkers, runners, skaters and cyclists on Sunday mornings and public holidays. It attracts about a million people every week – mostly those on low incomes.


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