Erin Taylor-Talcott endures hot weather in Sunday’s USATF National Race Walking Championships in Santee. Photo by Calvin Lau

The level of physical activity around the world is about the same as it was prior to the Olympics four years ago, with a sedentary lifestyle continuing to contribute to poor health and untimely deaths, researchers at UC San Diego, San Diego State University and other colleges around the world reported Wednesday.

Physical inactivity contributes to an estimated 5.3 million deaths each year, similar to the number of deaths attributed to tobacco use and obesity, said James Sallis, a UCSD School of Medicine Distinguished Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health.

The scientists called attention to the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle before the games in London. The new report comes a week before the 2016 Olympics begin in Rio de Janeiro.

“Because activity has not changed, how many lives have been lost?” Sallis asked. “We’ve wasted four years. There is great evidence that this is one of the big challenges in public health, but the actionable response has not been impressive or systematic. Inactive lifestyles are just accepted.”

In a paper published in The Lancet, Sallis wrote that 23 percent of adults worldwide fail to meet activity guidelines. Researchers believe that around 292,600 new dementia cases could be prevented globally each year with an increase in physical activity.

Roughly 80 percent of adolescents around the world are not meeting guidelines calling for one hour of moderate to rigorous daily physical activity.

“This is surprising. Kids should be among the most active,” Sallis said. “There’s no pill that we can prescribe to get people active, but we need to find solutions to technological forces in society that are reducing human activity.”

He said technology is making work and leisure time more sedentary, so policy-makers need to de-emphasize cars and re-emphasize walking and biking.

“We also need to work with the technology sector to mitigate inactivity in occupations and the promotion of sedentary entertainment,” Sallis said.

The study including researchers from the UCSD/SDSU Joint Doctoral Program in Public Health, the University of Western Australia, the World Health Organization, the University of Tennessee, Tokyo Medical University, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Maiduguri in Nigeria, the University of Sydney and the University of Pelotas in Brazil.

–City News Service

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