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In previous posts we have discussed the effects of too much siting (Sitting is the Enemy) and some possible ways to combat this growing pandemic (8 Easy Tips to be Healthier at Your Desk Job, Yoga Poses to Combat the Ill Effects of Sitting, 10 Ways to Sneak Exercise into your Daily Routine), but now it is time to look at the rather staggering numbers.

The global population is currently 7.3 Billion. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 4 adults worldwide is not active enough. This means that 1.8 billion people are not meeting the minimum for physical activity in their lives.

What do we mean when we say physical activity? The WHO defines it as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure – including activities undertaken while working, playing, carrying out household chores, travelling, and engaging in recreational pursuits.” By their standard, adults should have at the bare minimum 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, while children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity activity daily.

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kid-eating-sitting-watching-tvIn a recent study, Pedro Hallal of the Federal University of Pelotas, in Brazil, and his colleagues found that “31% of adults worldwide (1.5 billion) and 4 out of 5 teens aren’t exercising enough to meet that standard and therefore putting themselves at risk for chronic disease.” As childhood obesity rates continue to rise, it is clear that inactivity is a giant contributing factor. The sedentary habits formed in childhood tend to stick with people into adulthood and only become harder and harder to break.

Time Magazine tells us that “About 5.3 million of the 57 million deaths worldwide in 2008 could be attributed to inactivity… largely due to four major diseases: heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer. Overall, the estimates suggest that lack of exercise causes about 6% of heart disease, 7% of Type 2 diabetes, and 10% of breast and colon cancers worldwide.” Of course this doesn’t negate other contributing factors such as poor diet or genetic predisposition, but it does make it clear that even if you eat right and get some exercise regularly you could still be at risk if you sit all day.

The research also shows that this is a much greater issue in developed countries than in developing ones. CBS News tells us that “95 percent of adults in developed countries are classified as inactive,” and according to the Population Reference Bureau, there are 1.2 billion people in developed countries, which means that 1.1 billion people in developed countries are inactive.

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Time Magazine also supports this claim, reporting that “Rates of physical inactivity were higher in high-income countries than in low-income nations. The Americas were overall the most sedentary region — with 43% of the population not exercising enough — while rates of inactivity were lowest in southeast Asia (17%).” The numbers make it clear that, when physical labor is no longer a necessary part of life, the motivation to be active diminishes.

So bottom line is over a billion people worldwide are not active enough. And one of the largest contributing factors to this is the structure of the workplace. According to the New York Times, in the American workplace “80 percent of jobs, the researchers report, are sedentary or require only light activity… [and] it is estimated that only one in five Americans achieves a relatively high level of physical activity at work.” Sitting at a desk all day may pay the mortgage, but it is also slowly killing you.
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