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Physical inactivity – getting Scotland on the move
  1. Andrew Murray
  1. Correspondence to Andrew Murray, St Andrew's House Edinburgh, Scottish Government Sport and Physical Activity Policy Team, 2 Regent road, Edinburgh EH1 3DG, UK; docandrewmurray{at}

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Scotland helped invent inactivity

It is believed that Scotland has been inhabited for over 12 000 years. These early settlers were hunter-gatherers, sustaining regular physical activity in their search for food. Scots take pride in their proud history of innovation and invention. To medicine, we have contributed penicillin, insulin and the ECG. Scots also contributed the three best friends of the couch potato; the telephone, the refrigerator and the television, unwittingly sowing the seeds for one of the biggest public health challenges of the 21st century: physical inactivity.

Steven Blair's research has shown that low cardiorespiratory fitness is responsible for the largest attributable fraction of all-cause mortality.1 Karim Khan framed these data to emphasise that deaths attributable to low fitness exceeded those due to obesity, diabetes and smoking (‘smokadiabesity’) combined.2 The WHO looked at global health risks and found that over 3 million people each year die due to physical inactivity making physical inactivity the fourth leading cause of preventable death.3 It is accepted that increasing physical activity levels is beneficial both to preventing and managing cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, cancer and depression as well as promoting a better quality of life.

The current state of play in Scotland

Is this global problem relevant to Scotland, or do we have bigger fish to fry in our infamous deep fat fryers? WHO data from 2008 show that the UK is one of only seven countries worldwide, where fewer than 40% of adults reach minimum recommendations for physical activity.4 The 2010 Scottish Health Survey found that 39% of adults achieved a minimum of 30 min activity five times per week, while 72% of children reached 60 min of activity daily.5 These figures were based on self-reported activity levels. Scottish …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.