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Sedentary Lifestyle the ‘New Smoking’, Report Finds

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Just how dangerous is a sedentary lifestyle? A new report from the Conference Board of Canada and ParticipAction suggests it should be considered the “new smoking”.

The report, which is called “Moving Ahead: The Economic Impact of Reducing Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviour,” is based on research from the Canadian Community Health Survey and Statistics Canada. It insists that a sedentary lifestyle — which involves sitting at a desk or in front of the television for most of the day and evening — is making people sick and costing Canadians a lot of money.

According to the report, only about 15 per cent of Canadians get the recommended amount of exercise for a healthy lifestyle: 150 minutes each week.

The report suggests that by increasing the amount of time Canadians spend in physical activity — like walking, running, or playing sports — by just 10 per cent, it could give the national economy a $7.5 million boost over the next 25 years. The report also insists that $2.5 billion could be saved on medical treatment of diseases associated with sedentary living, like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

“Canadians spend most of their waking hours sitting and get insufficient activity, a recipe for the promotion of hypertension, diabetes and even premature mortality,” noted Dr. Mark Tremblay, a research advisor for ParticipAction. “These new findings show that modest, achievable changes in movement behaviours can produce substantial and important improvements in health, and should be embraced,” Tremblay added.

Louis Theriault, president of public policy at the Conference Board of Canada, insists Canadians shouldn’t be intimidated by the call for more physical activity. He says the report isn’t calling for people to participate in strenous or dangerous exercise, but simply wants people to get off the couch for a few more minutes each day.

“Just not sitting as much, walking a little more, that doesn’t mean being physically active per se, but removing the physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour out of your daily life,” Theriault said.

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