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Sitting a Lot Can Be 'Very Bad' for You continued...

"If you add up the fact that you sit a lot, many, many hours each day, the cumulative impact of a lot of sitting is not surprisingly therefore very bad," Levine says.

Other experts agree.

"Inactivity plays a role in almost every chronic disease there is," says John P. Thyfault, PhD, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri's School of Medicine. He studies the health effects of inactivity but was not involved in the research.

"We should maintain cigarette smoking as public health enemy number one, but we should move physical inactivity right up next to it," he says.

By the Numbers

Just how many people are putting their health in jeopardy because they don't get enough exercise?

A separate Lancet study estimated that around the world, as many as 1 in 3 adults and 4 out of 5 teens between the ages of 13 and 15 are not getting recommended amounts of physical activity. For an adult, that's 150 minutes of moderate activity, like brisk walking, a week. For teens, it's an hour of moderate activity each day.

Those numbers are even higher in the U.S. The study found that roughly 41% of adults in America don't get enough physical activity.

That study found that women of all ages were less likely than men to be physically active, and that people tend to sit around more as they age.

Why are we so inactive? Around the world, researchers say, people rely too much on cars and other kinds of motorized transport to get where they're going.

In the U.S., for example, less than 4% of people walk to work and less than 2% ride a bike to the office. That compares to about 20% of people who hoof it to the office in China, Germany, and Sweden. More than 20% pedal to work in China, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

And we sit too much. Around the world, about 42% of people say they sit for more than four hours each day. Nearly 70% of teens said they watched more than two hours of television each day.

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