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Don’t act against the evidence: Inactivity kills more than obesity!

By Mogens Kirkeby, ISCA President


This month, researchers from Cambridge University published research showing that Inactivity kills more than obesity. Much more in fact!


The study followed over 334,000 European men and women over 12 years and its results indicated that “twice as many deaths may be attributable to lack of physical activity compared with the number of deaths attributable to obesity”.


Two of the least active groups in the study proved to be the most critical contributors to this finding. Being part of the former (the inactive group) could mean premature death, while being part of the latter (the moderately inactive) could lead to a more normal lifespan.


How can being moderately inactive make such a difference? Because the little bit of light exercise that creeps into the moderately inactive person’s day – such as a brisk walk – helps them burn up to 110 calories every time. This accumulates to eventually reduce their risk of dying prematurely by 16-30%.


Powerful evidence

This new data offers evidence that can be used in a powerful way. Politicians can have any opinion they like. He or she can decide to initiate or give priority to certain actions with the intention that the outcome will be this and that – just because they have this opinion. Anybody can, of course, disagree with their opinion, but it is still regarded as a legitimate political opinion.


“So what?” you might ask. But this is my point. If you, as a politician, say we should do A because it will result in B, but evidence shows that A will not, in fact, result in B, then the decision maker will not only be acting upon your personal opinion (despite the good intention behind it), but against evidence. This is not good political governance.


So in response to studies like these, I would say that politicians and health/prevention decision makers should prioritise spending double the amount of resources on physical activity initiatives than on diet and obesity oriented initiatives – otherwise they will be acting against the evidence!


As stakeholders in grassroots sport and physical activity we can also use evidence from the latest research to ask any responsible decision maker in this field: Which areas should get the most political and financial attention – those that are the most dangerous or those that are less dangerous?


That is a good question and a rather easy one to answer. And we can follow it up with “So let’s start doing something about it rather than continuing to act against the evidence”.


Read more about the University of Cambridge's study here

"Computer" means doing a lot in the same spot - see our video from MOVE Week 2014