Effects of Physical Inactivity

By Dr. Balbir Singh in Cardiac Sciences

Jan 27 , 2023 | 1 min read


Physical inactivity poses a risk for premature mortality and several non-communicable diseases. It was estimated that in 2008, that physical inactivity caused 6%–10% of premature mortality, coronary heart diseasediabetesbreast cancer, and colon cancer globally.

An increasing number of epidemiological studies have shown that low physical activity (PA) is a strong independent risk factor for cardiovascular mortality, which continues to be the number 1 cause of death.

Physical activity exerts a protective effect on the incidence and mortality of cardiovascular disease, mainly achieved through its positive influence on the risk factors, such as weight gain, hypertension, glucose tolerance, and dyslipidemia.

Findings from a large study involving 1,584,181 people suggest that any intensity of physical activity would still reduce the risk of heart-related deaths.

In 2018, the World Health Assembly approved a new Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (GAPPA) 2018–2030. They adopted a global voluntary target to reduce the levels of physical inactivity in adults and adolescents by 2030.

The key messages by WHO are:

  1. Some physical activity is better than none.

  2. More is better for optimal health outcomes. 

All adults should take up regular physical activity and aim for at least 150 min of moderate-intensity or 75 min of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week. Among children and adolescents, an average of 60 min a day of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity across the week (mostly aerobic activity) leads to health benefits. Furthermore, guidelines continue to reinforce the value of muscle-strengthening activity for all adults and children.

Recent global estimates show that 1 in 4 adults and more than three-quarters of adolescents do not meet their recommendations for aerobic exercise. 

There are some risks of high-intensity exercises; however, these risks can be managed by gradually increasing the amount and intensity of physical activity. Individuals should start small with their physical activity and increase frequency, intensity, and duration over time. In those over 65 or with a history of heart disease, a discussion with your physician can be important.

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