London, Jun 18 (PTI) People being physically active prevents at least 3.9 million premature deaths globally every year, according to a study published in The Lancet Global Health journal on Thursday.
The team of researchers from the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh in the UK looked at previously published data for 168 countries.
They analysed the proportion of the population meeting World Health Organization global recommendation of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity throughout the week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or an equivalent combination.
The proportion of the population meeting the recommended amount of physical activity varied substantially between countries, from 33 per cent for Kuwait, to 64 per cent for the UK, to 94 per cent for Mozambique, according to the study.
By combining these data with estimates of the relative risk of dying early for active people compared to inactive people, the researchers were able to estimate the proportion of premature deaths that were prevented because people are physically active.
They found that globally, due to physical activity the number of premature deaths was an average of 15 per cent lower than it would have been – 14 per cent for women and 16 per cent for men -- equating to about 3.9 million lives saved per year.
Despite considerable variation in physical activity levels between countries, the positive contribution of physical activity was remarkably consistent across the globe, the researchers said.
They saw a broad trend towards a greater proportion of premature deaths averted for low- and middle income countries.
In low-income countries, an average of 18 per cent of premature deaths were averted compared to 14 per cent for high income countries, according to the researchers.
'We're used to looking at the downsides of not getting enough activity --whether that's sports or a gym or just a brisk walk at lunchtime -- but by focusing on the number of lives saved, we can tell a good news story of what is already being achieved,' said Tessa Strain from the University of Cambridge.
'It tells us how much good is being done and helps us say 'look how much benefit physical activity is already providing -- let's make things even better by increasing physical activity levels further',” Strain said. PTI SAR SAR