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A week of physical inactivity has similar health costs to smoking a packet of cigarettes
  1. Karim M Khan,
  2. Jennifer C Davis
  1. The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Karim M Khan, The University of British Columbia, UBC, Centre for Hip Health and Mobility, Suite 320-5950 University Blvd, Vancouver V6T 1Z3, Canada; karim.khan{at}

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Google knows everything, so we tried ‘What is the health cost of a week of physical inactivity compared with the health cost of cigarette smoking?’ 915 000 results provided no clear answer. PubMed, on the other hand, was concise. Two results but no help. What is your guess? Does a day of physical inactivity affect your health like just a couple of smokes (no big deal), or like a packet of 20? How much physical inactivity damages health as much as a carton of cigarettes?

Personal Healthcare utilisation attributable to physical inactivity=US$300 annually

Given Google's lack of help, we reused some backs of envelopes. It is really not hard. The US population in 1999 was 272 million. The percentage inactive ranged from 29% to 48%, depending on your source. You could use both of these numbers for a sensitivity analysis, but let's be optimistic: 29%=79 million inactive …

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