Skip to content

Fitness & Exercise

Font Size

Physical Inactivity May Be as Deadly as Smoking

Failure to Get Recommended Amounts of Activity Is Tied to Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Cancer

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.

Healthy Living Tools

Ditch Those Inches

Set goals, tally calorie intake, track workouts and more, all via WebMD’s free Food & Fitness Planner.

Get Started

Today on WebMD

pilates instructor
15 moves that get results.
woman stretching before exercise
How and when to do it.
couple working out
Moves you can do at home.
woman exercising
Strengthen your core with these moves.
man exercising
knees to chest
Man looking at watch before workout
Overweight man sitting on park bench

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

pilates instructor
jogger running among flowering plants
woman walking
woman doing pushups