Almost half of the people in the U.S. are lazy slobs, but they’re no longer alone. Other countries are catching up, adopting a sedentary American lifestyle that’s responsible for premature deaths around the world.
It’s not easy being a couch potato, but it’s clearly dangerous to your health. A series of new studies and commentaries published in The Lancet, though, show that physical inactivity is a problem that knows no borders.
If you work out regularly, you may think being sedentary means sitting down to drink water between sets, but most government guidelines say that physical inactivity is anything less than:
Adults: 150 minutes of walking or moderate physical activity per week Teens: one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise a day
Based upon these, the U.S. is a leader in sloth, with 43.3 percent of Americans failing to meet even those modest goals for physical activity. The rest of the world is catching up, though—with 24.8 percent of people sedentary in Europe, 30 percent in Russia and the Middle East, and 27 percent in Africa.
Globally, 31.1 percent of the world’s population moves too little to stay healthy, amounting to 1.5 billion people. Teenagers (13 to 15 years old) fare even worse. Over 80 percent of the up-and-coming generation moves about as much as a snail.
Researchers linked this pandemic of physical inactivity to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancer. In all, sedentary lifestyles lead to an estimated 5.3 million premature deaths a year worldwide, right up there with smoking.
Researchers propose several ways to tackle obesity in the world by encouraging people to get moving, from more parks and bike lanes to paying people to exercise. Personal responsibility, though, along with admitting that the couch can be deadly, may be the best way to save the world from physical inactivity.