Physical Activity Communities > Healthcare

Sedentary living contributes to a variety of chronic diseases and health complications, including obesity, diabetes, certain cardiovascular diseases, and cancer among others. Increasing physical activity also has proven effective in the treatment and prevention of chronic diseases. Levels of inactivity are now alarming high in many regions of the world and the cost of healthcare delivery amplified as a consequence of what is now referred to as an "inactivity epidemic".

According to the WHO’s most recent Global Health Risks data (2004), after accounting for effects of high blood pressure, tobacco use, and high blood glucose, physical inactivity constitutes the 4th leading cause of death globally - about 3.3 million attributable deaths per year. More recent evidence (2009) using direct measure rather than survey data shows physical inactivity to be the leading cause of death in the US. Another recent study (2008) shows that physical inactivity costs the US Health Care System more than $102 billion dollars annually.

Surveillance studies show that 40% of primary care doctors and 36% of medical students in the US do not do enough physical activity to meet recent US federal guidelines. Physically inactive doctors are less likely to assess physical activity status of their patients or provide them with exercise counseling. Medical care providers who are inactive are likely to be less credible role models and thus less effective in helping patients adopt healthy physical activity behaviors. Strategies are needed, worldwide, that will encourage healthcare providers and train them to promote physical activity counseling as a part of every patient’s medical care. This area provides resource information on programs related to promoting physical activity in the context of healthcare delivery. This statement adapted from the Exercise is Medicine™ Fact Sheet