If you’re sedentary, it’s time to get moving — a new study has revealed a lack of physical activity could be as harmful to your health as smoking.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health say that while smoking is responsible for 5 million deaths worldwide every year, physical inactivity could be killing as many as 5.3 million people.

What’s more, their work estimates six percent of heart disease, seven percent of type 2 diabetes and about 10 percent of colon and breast cancers are linked to lack of activity.

“We know that as soon as somebody gets out of their chair, their blood sugar improves, their blood cholesterol and triglycerides improve, and that’s very consistent,” said Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “Every time you get up it gets better. Every time you sit down it gets worse.”

John P. Thyfault, PhD, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri’s School of Medicine, agrees. “Inactivity plays a role in almost every chronic disease there is,” he says. “We should maintain cigarette smoking as public health enemy number one, but we should move physical inactivity right up next to it.”


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