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A new study published today by the Centre for Economics and Business Research has revealed the true cost of Europe’s physical inactivity time bomb. The study, commissioned by the International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA) shows that half a million Europeans die every year as a result of being physically inactive. The most common causes of death are from those diseases linked to being physically inactive, such as coronary heart disease, type II diabetes and colorectal and breast cancer.


The study, called the 'Economic Cost of Physical Inactivity in Europe', shows that one in four adults across Europe is currently physically inactive – as are four out of five adolescents.


It also found that the total cost to Europe’s economy from such widespread inactivity is over 80bn Euros a year – five billion Euros more than the world spends on cancer drugs each year.


If nothing is done to get people moving and more active in their day to day lives, the study says physical inactivity could pose a bigger risk to public health in the future than smoking.


Despite the huge financial and human cost, ISCA says there are cheap and effective ways to get people moving that could save businesses and health services across Europe billions of Euros.


ISCA President Mogens Kirkeby says: “We need to move more. It’s really as simple as that. But 20 minutes a day of moderate activity would make a massive difference to these figures. If we could cut the current level of physical inactivity in Europe by just a fifth, we could save 100,000 lives and over 16bn Euros a year”.


Mr Kirkeby said that the WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends doing nearly two hours a week of moderate activity. “That means 20 minutes a day and could be as simple as getting off the bus or train a stop earlier and taking a brisk walk to work; taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or even just playing in the park or garden with the kids”.


The study also showed that being physically inactive goes beyond physical disorders.


One in four Europeans (or 83 million) is affected by mental ill health. The CEBR report says the indirect cost of inactivity-related mood and anxiety disorders is estimated to be over 23 bn Euros a year.


This is important, when physical activity has been shown to help reduce the effects of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and psychological and emotional distress.


The study highlights the results of a 16-week trial to get people more active. This showed that those who took part reported sleeping better, being more productive as well feeling healthier and less stressed at work.


According to ISCA, it is possible to defuse the inactivity time bomb by getting people to see the physical, mental and social benefits of being active.


“The study is shocking when you see the number of lives being lost and billions of Euros spent because we aren’t moving enough” says Mr Kirkeby.


“That’s why ISCA is campaigning to get 100 million Europeans to be more active by 2020 by finding an activity that moves them. We need to encourage people to move more, so they see and feel the real benefits that brings them”.


The full CEBR study can be found here, as can a more detailed breakdown of the economic and human cost of physical inactivity in Europe by the following countries: UK, Spain, Italy, Poland, France and Germany.