Physical Inactivity Reduces Life Expectancy and Increases the Risk of Chronic Disease;Study Released by The Lancet Targets Physical Activity and Effects on Health

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Released: Wednesday, July 18, 2012

BATON ROUGE, LA - Pennington Biomedical Research Center Professor Peter Katzmarzyk, Ph.D., joined a group of top global physical activity researchers in London on Wednesday, July 18 for the launch of a special series of studies published in The Lancet.  In the newly released article, entitled "Effect of Physical Inactivity on Major Non-Communicable Diseases Worldwide: An Analysis of Burden of Disease and Life Expectancy," Katzmarzyk and other researchers found that there is strong evidence to show that inactivity increases the risk of many adverse health conditions, including coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancers, as well as shortens life expectancy.

Because much of the world's population is inactive, the connection presents a major public health issue. Worldwide, the researchers estimate that inactivity causes an average of 6 percent of the burden of disease from coronary heart disease, 7 percent of type 2 diabetes, 10 percent of breast cancer, and 10 percent of colon cancer. The article is one in a series of six on physical activity to be presented at a pre-Olympic educational seminar hosted by The Lancet in London.

According to Katzmarzyk, Pennington Biomedical's Associate Executive Director of Population Science, LPFA Endowed Chair and co-author of the inactivity study, "The publication of The Lancet Physical Activity Series is a landmark in the field. It elevates the importance of physical inactivity to that of other common chronic disease risk factors such as smoking and obesity. The results of our study, which is part of this groundbreaking series, demonstrate that 9% of all premature deaths occurring globally could be eliminated if people were more active."

"This study is exactly what our mission at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center states:  to discover the triggers of chronic diseases through innovative research that improves human health across the lifespan," added Pennington Biomedical Research Center Executive Director Steven Heymsfield, M.D.

In addition to Katzmarzyk, other authors of the study include:  I-Min Lee, Sc.D., Harvard Medical School; Eric J. Shiroma, M.Sc., Harvard School of Public Health; Felipe Lobelo, M.D., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Pekka Puska, M.D., National Institutes of Health and Welfare, Finland; and Steven N. Blair, P.E.D., University of South Carolina.

The Lancet Physical Activity Series will review current levels of physical activity and trends worldwide, why some people are active and why some are not, evidence-based strategies for effective physical activity promotion, and how a multi-sector and systems-wide approach that goes way beyond health will be critical to increase population-levels of activity worldwide.


The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. It is a campus of Louisiana State University and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 44 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and support personnel, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Pennington Biomedical's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 222-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.