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ISCA report warns of inactivity time bomb

18th June 2015

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An organisation based in Copenhagen, the International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA), says that 37% of British adults fail to engage in the recommended levels of physical activity. Its report, 'The economic cost of physical inactivity in Europe', written together with the Centre for Economics and Business Research, also claims that an estimated 17% of deaths in the UK are related to inactivity.

The report quotes a 2010 estimate by the WHO that a quarter (26%) of European adults, and four fifths (80%) of European adolescents, are insufficiently active, and this inactivity causes 500,000 deaths per year and costs €80 billion. 

Modern lifestyles are increasingly sedentary. For example, since 1995, the proportion of less active occupations in Europe has grown from 55% to 67%. Evidence suggests that activity levels are also falling in recreation, housekeeping, and transport.

ISCA's report quotes 2013 research by Eurobarometer, showing that people in a higher socio-professional category, and with a better education, do more sport or exercise.

The WHO recommends that adults do 150 minutes a week (20 minutes a day) of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or 75 minutes a week of high-intensity activity. Failure to do so can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, type II diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer, musculoskeletal problems, and can cause psychological problems and depression. Physical inactivity accounts for around 9% of deaths worldwide per year (5.3 million).

The cost of treating the major non-communicable diseases attributed to inactivity is estimated to be £9.2 billion in the EU; and the cost in the UK is greater than for any of the other countries in the study, at £1.9 billion. Of the six European countries the report looked at (France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the UK), Poland has the lowest proportion of inactive adults (19%), and the UK the highest proportion (37%), with Italy second (33%).

The solution is to encourage people to be more active, including during recreation and while travelling. Providing accessible, safe infrastructure is an important part of that. 

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