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Worldwide decline in physical activity

16th June 2012

Physical activity levels are declining worldwide, a trend that raises major health concerns, according to a new study. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill looked at data collected since the 1960's on time-use in various countries. They then projected these trends to 2030.

A score known as the Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET), was calculated to measure the amount of energy spent on completing a task. It was found that by 2030, the average American will spend 126 MET hours per week, compared with around 235 in 1965.

Similar trends were observed in countries all around the world. American adults were not the laziest, however. China and Brazil had the most rapid declines, while UK adults were also found to have lower physical activity levels than Americans.

Entertainment technology - such as television, the Internet, and video games - is not the only factor behind this global decline in physical activity. Jobs and office environments have changed dramatically, requiring less movement, while chores in the home such as cooking and cleaning have also become easier. Car ownership and mass transit have increased too, so that walking is less of a requirement, while developing nations have witnessed a shift from farming to manufacturing.

Regular exercise is vital to prevent obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease. If these trends continue, the world depicted in EM Forster's The Machine Stops (in which human bodies have largely atrophied), may prove to be uncannily accurate.

The full report including trends for each country is available at the Wiley Online Library.


physical activity trends in the us 1965 2030


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