Worldwide there has been a large shift towards less physically demanding work. This has been accompanied by increasing use of mechanized transportation, a greater prevalence of labor saving technology in the home, and less active recreational pursuits. At least 31% of the world's population does not get sufficient exercise. This is true in almost all developed and developing countries, and among children. Some experts refer to sitting as "the new smoking" because of its negative effects on overall health.
These exercise trends are contributing to the rising rates of chronic diseases including: obesity, heart disease, stroke and high cholesterol. Active transport (walking, bicycling, etc.) has been found to be inversely related to obesity in Europe, North America, and Australia. Thus exercise has been associated with a decrease in mortality.
Causes of lack of exercise
One of the causes most prevalent in the developing world is urbanization. As more of the population moves to cities, population over-crowding, increased poverty, increased levels of crime, high-density traffic, low air quality and lack of parks, sidewalks and recreational sports facilities leads to a less active lifestyle.
A number of factors has been associated with physical inactivity at a population level including: female gender, older age, living with a partner, smoking, little schooling and poverty.
Studies in children and adults have found an association between the number of hours of television watched and the prevalence of obesity. A 2008 meta analysis found that 63 of 73 studies (86%) showed an increased rate of childhood obesity with increased media exposure, and rates increasing proportionally to time spent watching television.
Another cause in the case of children is that physical activity in activities from self-propelled transport, to school physical education, and organized sports is declining in many countries.
Noncommunicable diseases, partly due to a lack of exercise, are currently the greatest public health problem in most countries around the world. Each year at least 1.9 million people die as a result of physical inactivity, which makes inactivity one of the leading preventable causes of death worldwide.
Australian children between 1961 and 2002 have had a marked decline in their aerobic fitness.
Obese people are less active than their normal weight counterparts. In Canada, 27.0% of sedentary men are obese as opposed to 19.6% of active men. Lean people are more fidgety than their obese counterparts; this relationship is maintained even if normal weight people eat more or the obese person loses weight.
National data indicates that only 10% of Canadian youth are meeting the guideline for screen time of less than 2 hours per day. As well, although 2/3 of families live close enough for their children to bike or walk to school, only 1/3 report actually walking to school and 80% report never having cycled to school.
Asia and China
A rapid decline in physical activity has occurred between the 1980s and the 2000s. The decline in physical activity is attributed to increasing technology in the workplace and changing leisure activities. In 1989 65% of Chinese had jobs that required heavy labor. This decreased to 51% in the year 2000.
Among Asian children between 1917 and 2003 little change has been seen in power and speed however endurance has decreased substantially in the last 10–15 years.
In Finland leisure-time physical activity has increased, while occupational and commuting physical activity has decreased from 1972 to 2002. Leisure-time physical activity increased from 66% (1972) to 77% (2002) in men and from 49% (1972)to 76% (2002) in women. Physically demanding work decreased from 60% (1972) to 38% (2002) in men and from 47% (1972) to 25% (2002) in women. Daily commuting activity decreased from 30% (1972) to 10% (2002) in men and from 34% (1972) to 22% (2002) in women.
Over 60% of the population of Brazil, Chile, and Peru do not meet the recommended levels of physical activity needed to maintain health. A study of a southern Brazilian population found that >80% of the population was physically inactive.
A study of Swedish males found a significant decrease in total physical exercise even though recreational exercise has increased. This was due to a decrease in work place exercise and physical exercise in transportation.
Americans have become less physically active overall between 1955 and 2005. While the rate of leisure-time physical activity has not changed significantly there has been a decrease in work-related activity, human powered transportation, activity in the home, and increasing sedentary activity. During 2000 and 2005 the number of adults who were never physically active increased from 9.4% to 10.3% while the number who were engaged in the highest level of physical activity decreased from 18.7% to 16.7%. Pertaining to leisure-time physical activity, people involved in no activity increased from 38.5% to 40.0% while those who spent most of their day sitting increased from 36.8% to 39.9%.
In 2000 the CDC estimated that more than 40% of the US population was sedentary, another 30% was active but not sufficiently and less than 30% had an adequate level of physical activity. There has been a trend toward decreased physical activity in part due to increasingly mechanized forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization. Obesity rates have increased in relation to expanding suburbs. This has been attributed to increased time spent commuting, leading to less exercise and less meal preparation at home. Driving one's children to school has become increasingly popular. In the USA the proportion of children who walk or bike to school declined between 1969 (42%) and 2001 (16%) resulting in less exercise.
In England both walking and cycling have declined since 1975 being replaced by motorized transport. The average British citizen in the year 2005 walks 317 km (197 mi) per year, a fall of 106 km (66 mi) since 1975. Similar trends are seen in the United States. In 1983 9% of all trips were on foot. This decreased to 7% in 1990.
Solutions to address the lack of exercise
Going to a gym is another measure that can be taken. However, according to a controversial suggestion by Michael Mosley and doctor James Levine, it is not necessary to go to a gym to increase one's physical activity level. Rather, an alternative solution may be to just take on a more active lifestyle, including increases in Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT), and perhaps include a small amount of rigorous exercise (about 3 minutes per week). The latter technique is called HIT
- "WHO: Obesity and overweight". World Health Organization. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
- "WHO | Physical Inactivity: A Global Public Health Problem". WHO. Retrieved February 22, 2009.
- Dollman J, Norton K, Norton L (December 2005). "Evidence for secular trends in children's physical activity behaviour". Br J Sports Med 39 (12): 892–7; discussion 897. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2004.016675. PMC 1725088. PMID 16306494.
- Salmon J, Timperio A (2007). "Prevalence, trends and environmental influences on child and youth physical activity". Med Sport Sci 50: 183–99. doi:10.1159/000101391. PMID 17387258.
- "Is Sitting the New Smoking?". Discovery. 2012-03-01.
- "N C H S - Health E Stats - Physical Activity Among Adults: United States, 2000 and 2005". CDC.
- Bassett DR, Pucher J, Buehler R, Thompson DL, Crouter SE (November 2008). "Walking, cycling, and obesity rates in Europe, North America, and Australia". J Phys Act Health 5 (6): 795–814. PMID 19164816.
- "WHO | Physical Activity and Young People". WHO.
- "WHO | Physical Activity and Women".
- "WHO | Physical Activity and Older Adults". WHO.
- Dias-da-Costa JS, Hallal PC, Wells JC et al. (2005). "Epidemiology of leisure-time physical activity: a population-based study in southern Brazil". Cad Saude Publica 21 (1): 275–82. PMID 15692661.
- Gortmaker SL, Must A, Sobol AM, Peterson K, Colditz GA, Dietz WH (April 1996). "Television viewing as a cause of increasing obesity among children in the United States, 1986–1990". Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 150 (4): 356–62. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1996.02170290022003. PMID 8634729.
- Vioque J, Torres A, Quiles J (December 2000). "Time spent watching television, sleep duration and obesity in adults living in Valencia, Spain". Int. J. Obes. Relat. Metab. Disord. 24 (12): 1683–8. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0801434. PMID 11126224.
- Tucker LA, Bagwell M (July 1991). "Television viewing and obesity in adult females" (PDF). Am J Public Health 81 (7): 908–11. doi:10.2105/AJPH.81.7.908. PMC 1405200. PMID 2053671.
- "www.commonsensemedia.org" (pdf). Ezekiel J. Emanuel.
- "WHO | Why "Move for Health"". WHO.
- Lopez AD, Mathers CD, Ezzati M, Jamison DT, Murray CJ (May 2006). "Global and regional burden of disease and risk factors, 2001: systematic analysis of population health data". Lancet 367 (9524): 1747–57. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(06)68770-9. PMID 16731270.
- Tomkinson GR, Olds TS (2007). "Secular changes in aerobic fitness test performance of Australasian children and adolescents". Med Sport Sci 50: 168–82. doi:10.1159/0000101361. PMID 17387257.
- Tjepkema M (2005-07-06). "Measured Obesity–Adult obesity in Canada: Measured height and weight". Nutrition: Findings from the Canadian Community Health Survey. Ottawa, Ontario: Statistics Canada.
- Levine JA, Lanningham-Foster LM, McCrady SK, Krizan AC, Olson LR, Kane PH, Jensen MD, Clark MM (2005). "Interindividual variation in posture allocation: Possible role in human obesity". Science 307 (5709): 584–6. doi:10.1126/science.1106561. PMID 15681386.
- James WP (March 2008). "The fundamental drivers of the obesity epidemic". Obes Rev 9 (s1): 6–13. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2007.00432.x. PMID 18307693.
- "The double burden of malnutrition Case studies from six developing countries". Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN. Retrieved January 11, 2009.
- Macfarlane DJ, Tomkinson GR (2007). "Evolution and variability in fitness test performance of Asian children and adolescents". Med Sport Sci 50: 143–67. doi:10.1159/0000101358. PMID 17387256.
- Borodulin K, Laatikainen T, Juolevi A, Jousilahti P (June 2008). "Thirty-year trends of physical activity in relation to age, calendar time and birth cohort in Finnish adults". Eur J Public Health 18 (3): 339–44. doi:10.1093/eurpub/ckm092. PMID 17875578.
- "statline.cbs.nl". Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek. Retrieved Apr 2011.
- Jacoby E, Bull F, Neiman A (October 2003). "Rapid changes in lifestyle make increased physical activity a priority for the Americas". Rev. Panam. Salud Publica 14 (4): 223–5, 226–8. PMID 14662071.
- Norman A, Bellocco R, Vaida F, Wolk A (April 2003). "Age and temporal trends of total physical activity in Swedish men". Med Sci Sports Exerc 35 (4): 617–22. doi:10.1249/01.MSS.0000058357.23080.F4. PMID 12673145.
- "Physical Activity Statistics: No Leisure-Time Physical Activity Trend Chart | DNPAO | CDC". WHO. Retrieved February 24, 2009.
- Brownson RC, Boehmer TK, Luke DA (2005). "Declining rates of physical activity in the United States: what are the contributors?". Annu Rev Public Health 26 (1): 421–43. doi:10.1146/annurev.publhealth.26.021304.144437. PMID 15760296.
- Caballero B (2007). "The global epidemic of obesity: An overview". Epidemiol Rev 29 (1): 1–5. doi:10.1093/epirev/mxm012. PMID 17569676.
- Lopez R (2004). "Urban sprawl and risk for being overweight or obese". Am J Public Health 94 (9): 1574–9. doi:10.2105/AJPH.94.9.1574. PMC 1448496. PMID 15333317.
- Great Britain Parliament House of Commons Health Committee (May 2004). Obesity - Volume 1 - HCP 23-I, Third Report of session 2003-04. Report, together with formal minutes. London, UK: TSO (The Stationery Office). ISBN 0-215-01737-4. Retrieved 2007-12-17.
- "www.dft.gov.uk". Department for transportation.
- "www.dft.gov.uk". Department for transport. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
- French SA, Story M, Jeffery RW (2001). "Environmental influences on eating and physical activity". Annu Rev Public Health 22 (1): 309–35. doi:10.1146/annurev.publhealth.22.1.309. PMID 11274524.
- Garland, T., Jr. H. Schutz, M. A. Chappell, B. K. Keeney, T. H. Meek, L. E. Copes, W. Acosta, C. Drenowatz, R. C. Maciel, G. van Dijk, C. M. Kotz, and J. C. Eisenmann. 2010. The biological control of voluntary exercise, spontaneous physical activity and daily energy expenditure in relation to obesity: human and rodent perspectives. Journal of Experimental Biology 214:206–229.
- Horizon documentary: The Truth about Exercise