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Physical activity: what is already being done and how we can avert 1 million deaths annually in future
  1. Carl Johan Sundberg
  1. Correspondence to Dr Carl Johan Sundberg, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm 17177, Sweden; Carl.J.Sundberg{at}

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Physical inactivity is a major and increasing contributor to poor health and premature death across the world. People can increase their health-enhancing physical activity (PA) levels through a combination of personal efforts and a supportive and conducive environment. Healthcare has a key role to play, but needs more knowledge, organisation and incentives to fulfil its potential.

Physical inactivity caused over 5.3 million deaths, or 9% of premature mortality, worldwide in 2008.1 If physical inactivity were decreased by 25%, more than 1 million annual deaths could be averted. The health improvement of enhanced PA is largely due to the lower risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease and cancer. Equally importantly, increased PA also improves quality of life and helps to prevent or treat mental health disorders.

Multipronged approach needed to increase PA levels—no magic bullet

A decreasing number of people across the world reach the PA levels recommended by …

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