back to article Humanity increasingly sitting on collective arse

The richer the nation in which you live, the greater the chance that you'll have a lifestyle that includes little physical activity. Nasty health problems are the likely result, but technology has the potential to address the issue. So says a new study, Global physical activity levels: surveillance progress, pitfalls, and …


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  1. Martin Budden Bronze badge

    Sky is blue, water is wet.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sky is blue, water is wet.

      Life expectancy Botswana 32 years, USA 78 years. Damned lies...

    2. Luther Blissett


      So what's not to like? While 'humanity' sits on assets, it is not revolting, revolving, or revoluting. With 24/7 media-infotainment complexity, it won't even be thinking about any of those things. What's not to like?

  2. David Hicks


    And long term studies seem to show that (despite the claims coming out of the sporting cabal at the top of the UK olympics team) the hosting nation of an Olympics does not see a rise in sporting participation. We would be doing much more for the people of the UK if the money had been spent on an expansion of the UK's cycle-path infrastructure, removing the current "I don't want to get killed on the road" disincentive to taking up a healthy and non-polluting form of transport.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yup

      Cycle paths have to be the biggest waste of space in the country. Miles of expensive, empty, tarmac, and on the rare occasions I see anyone on a bike there's at least 50:50 chance that they're riding along the road, ignoring the parallel cycle path completely.

      1. Giles Jones Gold badge

        Re: Yup

        The point is that if there no cycle paths people ask for them or use it as an excuse to not doing any cycling. Much of the paths are part of a national cycling network (these have a route number) and are used for touring cyclists.

        Cycle lanes are not mandatory, they are often poorly thought out and sometimes dangerous. Cyclists using road racing bikes can hit 30MPH on the flat and so a cycle lane is an inappropriate place to be riding.

        If you think it is cyclists holding you up on your way to work then you are mistaken, every time you come to a set of traffic lights just think about all the other cars who have forced you to stop and wait for them to cross.

        We are on the brink of having the first British winner of the Tour de France and cycling is here to stay, get used to it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yup

          He's talking about the national network of cycling routes, many miles of which are not highways at all, but metalled byways or disused railways. I used to regularly commute 20 miles a day that way when the alternative was the murderous A34. Some people do cycle it, but after seeing a poor fellow's head sheared clean off by a passing truck carrying a wide load I avoid out of town A roads by bike as much as possible.

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: Yup

            Problem is when a railway wants the land back.

            There is almost a war between the preservation movement and sustrans

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yup

          > If you think it is cyclists holding you up on your way to work then you are mistaken,

          No, I'm not. When a line of buses and cars is sitting behind some lycra-clad plonker doing 15MPH in the road, parallel to the clearly marked cycle lane that is 1m to his left, it's not the cars that are causing the delay.

          > every time you come to a set of traffic lights just think about all the other cars who have forced you to stop and wait for them to cross.

          Unlike said plonkers who sail through the red lights as if they weren't there, requiring crossing traffic to slam on the brakes and swerve?

          > We are on the brink of having the first British winner of the Tour de France

          And your point is?

          > and cycling is here to stay, get used to it.

          It's been here for years, long before cycle paths were thought of. I have no problem with it, and even indulge myself at times. When I do it is with suitable respect for the other traffic sharing the road.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yup

        You are partially right, most of our existing cycle lanes are rubbish. We need proper cycling infrastructure like the Dutch have, not a bit of painted tarmac that peters out at every pinch point.

        On my commute down the A11 (Stratford High Street) there are at least three lanes in each direction, a stretch of on road parking and a central reservation, so there is room for this infrastructure.

      3. Piro

        Re: Yup

        I'm forever seeing cyclists holding up traffic on busy roads, while the purpose marked cycle path is literally visible from the road.

        I don't know about you, but if I was out cycling, I'd want to keep far away from fumes and angry motorists if possible.

        Drives me up the wall. My commute to work is on a busy road that has a cycle path running parallel to it for ALL of the length, so I am at a loss as to what the excuse is.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yup

          @Piro. You may be at a loss but there are plenty of examples of ill thought out cycle paths - suggest you give yours a try and report back on why cyclists are choosing the road.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. Miek

        Re: Yup

        "Cycle paths have to be the biggest waste of space in the country. Miles of expensive, empty, tarmac, and on the rare occasions I see anyone on a bike there's at least 50:50 chance that they're riding along the road, ignoring the parallel cycle path completely." -- Every time I see a cycle lane, it is occupied by several parked cars and in other cases moving cars that simply ignore the solid white lines.

        I would be in favour of getting rid of bus lanes and creating cycle lanes with a divider that prevents cars and other motor vehicles from entering it.

        The current system of cycle lanes are poorly thought out and are mostly dangerous.

        I would look to the Dutch as an example of how cycle lane infrastructure should be implemented. Dedicated, not half baked.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yup

          > I would be in favour of getting rid of bus lanes and creating cycle lanes with a divider that prevents cars and other motor vehicles from entering it.

          Sounds good, especially if you then get the police to hit the cyclists with a £100 fine when they use the road beside the cycle lane, just as cars using a cycle/bus lane get fined.

      5. gaz 7

        Re: Yup

        Unused and empty cycle paths are because they are usually crap - poorly surfaced and maintained making journey times a lot slower than cycling along the road. A lot of them also divert through very quiet and out of the way places, which especially when it's dark, make them appear dangerous and unsafe to people worried about attackes mainly women and children.

        Most of the time councils do the bare minimum to get the cash they want, rather then building infrastructure that is fit for purpose and people would want to use.

        Build decent paths and people will cycle...

      6. Graham Marsden

        Re: Yup

        See here for some perfect examples of useless cycle lanes...

        1. Miek

          Re: Yup @Graham Marsden

          Here's a really pointless Cycle Lane gesture from Oxford City Council ...

 [Google Maps link, with an extreme number of parameters]

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yup

        Well I commute and shop by bicycle on cycle paths, so I easily exceed these guidelines; however I have to deal with overgrown vegetation which narrow the path and obscures road crossings, stupid routing, stupid placement of overflow parking spaces, ridiculous humps, degrading surfaces, some brain-dead brick or tile surfaces on slopes (nasty when icy), the zombies who block the path with their bodies, their kids, dogs, meandering bicycles, and way-long dog leads, some barely visible, across most or all of the path like trip wires!

        I now use a MET Parachute MTB helmet, when I cycle, because a KO accident and quite expensive dentist bills taught me I need one, even for well ridden 'safe' cycle paths; a lid is a fracking joke.

        If it snows, forget about the ice-rink shoe-print cycle paths being cleared, you have no choice but to go by road; however poor surfacing, damage, or other hazards on the side of the road can force going wider in places.

        Basically, way-too-little is spent on cycle paths for quality design and year round maintenance in the UK, and too many zombie pedestrians use them, so it's not surprising many cyclists avoid cycle paths and cycle on the roads instead, abet at the risk of serious injury or death.

    2. Bogle

      Re: Yup

      Average spend by Danish councils on cycling initiatives per capita per year over the last 5 years: approx. £40. UK councils? £1.

      Especially galling as I live in Edinburgh where our council's vanity project, the Trams, would have bought every single citizen five decent bicycles ...

    3. Mips

      Re: Yup

      When I was a kid I could not sit still. Now I am grown I cannot get moving. But I have a dog and it will not let me sit around no matter what the weather.

      Mine is the long long waterproof with hood.

  3. Silverburn

    Is MET the new BMI? Ie complete bollocks?

    A 20 stone lardo isn't going to be burning the same calories at rest as a 8 stone female athlete, surely...

    1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      She does when I'm around.


  4. toadwarrior

    We need more cycle paths and do more to discourage car usage in cities. Cambridge would be awesome if they'd get rid of the cars rather than letting it be a gridlocked mess every day.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      wrong approach

      Looking at the solution as being "*discourage* car usage" is completely backwards. The solution is to *encourage* the use of other forms of transport, by making them work properly, so that people change voluntarily. In places where that doesn't make economic sense (rural areas) there is no point in punishing car drivers just because you can, so car use should be made easy and efficient to avoid jams and pollution.

      Round where I live there's a huge anti-car effort, reducing roads to one lane and creating bus lanes, in an attempt to force people to use the bus. The bus service is only convenient for people who live and work entirely within the city, so those of us who can't use it have to sit in ever bigger traffic jams surrounded by fumes, while acres of red tarmac lie empty for most of the day. I can usually drive to work in 30 minutes, to go by public transport takes three buses and 2 hours, and I can't get home that way.

      No wonder town centres are dying, with out-of-town shops and the Internet picking up the business. Nobody round here goes into town unless they really have to.

      1. AdamWill

        Re: wrong approach

        Have you been to Cambridge? You'd probably take the OP's point if you have. Because basically the entire town is listed the streets can't be widened and haven't been since they were laid down for horses and carts back in 1372 or whatever. The whole old part of the city is basically gridlocked from about 9 to 5 every day. I regularly used to be able to walk around town quicker than anyone could drive. It's an absolute poster boy for a place where it really _would_ make a lot of sense from all angles to heavily discourage driving. It'd be nice to make it like one of those towns in France where no private cars at all are allowed in the city limits.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: wrong approach

          Yes, I've been to Cambridge a few times, and I agree about the traffic, but it's exactly the situation where a good alternative would be used because it was better. No need to make the driving intentionally more difficult just tto create a need.

          Which French towns are you thinking of? I've seen that in tiny mediaeval villages, never in towns with the possible exception of Megeve.

          1. AdamWill

            Re: wrong approach

            Er, have to cite a very vague memory there, I'm afraid. Could've been somewhere that was technically a village not a town, I don't really remember. I just remember being on vacation once and visiting a town/village/place where you had to park on the edge of town and walk around.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd post a comment...

    But that would mean moving the mouse.

    Where's that Yawn icon?

    1. Thomas 4

      Re: I'd post a comment...

      I'd upvote this but........

  6. regadpellagru
    IT Angle

    20 mins of vigorous activity

    "20 min of vigorous-intensity physical activity on at least 3 days every week;"

    I particularly like this one, which presumably happens in bed :-)

    Sadly, the distribution of low activity across countries matches what I see in terms of overweight people distribution, across the various countries offices of my employer. This is especially true for women.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 20 mins of vigorous activity

      > I particularly like this one, which presumably happens in bed :-)

      And sometimes even with company.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Where would these accelerometers be attached? May I suggest that if the forearm were chosen and the device worn in the style of a wristwatch, the mean MET for the adolescent segment will actually be discovered to be in the thousands. (Well, for males at least.)

  8. Magister

    True dat

    Here's the thing; the report is actually quite valid. There has been a considerable increase in both overweight and obese people; and the introduction of a new category of "morbidly obese". Although we can make various comments about the situation, the reality is that all of these "weight challenged" people are going to be putting a huge strain on the countries' infrastructure.

    Put aside for a moment the need to provide bigger seats on transportation systems, theatres / cinemas, schools, etc. the NHS need to provide bigger beds, lifting systems etc. just to manage the number of overweight people that they have to treat. As those people get older, the care homes will also need more of that equipment. This stuff is not cheap; a local hospital spent over £100 k on fitting out one bed in one ward to cope with excessively large patients.

    So where is the money to pay for this coming from? Quite simply from all of us; and that money that is spent on those facilities cannot then be spent in other areas. If we could halt the rise in obesity (by any means) it would save the country a lot of cash that could then be better spent elsewhere.

  9. Tel Starr

    Adolescent sloth... is spotty.

    I see what they did there!

  10. Julian Bradfield

    logic fail

    I think you (the author) meant "can achieve by failing to meet *all* of the following criteria".

    1. Miek

      Re: logic fail

      Not really, Criteria is a plural. So in the author's case he was already saying *all* otherwise he may have said "can achieve by failing to meet each of the following criterion"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: logic fail

        "can achieve by failing to meet each of the following criterion"

        "Criterion" should still be the plural "criteria" (simpler example: "failing to eat each of the following carrot" is wrong).

        The problem with the original sentence is the grouping. Is it "Failing to (meet any of the following criteria)" or "(failing to meet) any of the following criteria"?

        P.S., why was the first thing I thought of a carrot?

        1. Miek

          Re: logic fail

          "P.S., why was the first thing I thought of a carrot?" -- Maybe you are a Donkey.

  11. SteveMD

    Obesity dumb bomb

    Here we go again... more pseudo-science jumping on the let's blame the fatties wagon. Wealthier nations also live longer and healthier lives, no contradiction there?

    As for those spouting the silly "cost to the NHS" argument, this has already been shown to be a fallacy, the overweight actually cost no more than the "healthy". How can this be? You say. They are all fat and unhealthy. Another recently published study confirmed the data we have had for years, since 2001 actually, that most overweight people live as long and as healthily as those who are considered "normal" weight and a damn sight longer than those who are underweight. Only about 4% of the population fall into the dangerously overweight category, less than those who number the dangerously underweight, about 7%. Why are there no calls for sanctions against the "skinny gits"?

    Secondly, do you know how much sporting injuries cost the NHS? Do you know how much being dumb or taking stupid D.I.Y. risks cost the NHS? All personal choices, all "avoidable".

    Don't you see that this argument leads to the justification of withholding treatment on the grounds of cost and then on to the break up of free, at the point of treatment, universal healthcare? Various NHS groups will publicise spending on obesity, because they all need more money and climbing on the obesity bandwagon is easy and convenient. Do you have actual figures on the spending for specialised equipment for treatment of fatties and how that compares to the treatment of others or are you just joining in with a socially approved prejudice?

    I really tire of this continuing misinformation about, food, fat and health.

    Five a day? Made up by a marketing firm for farmers of California. Actually, two a week gives much the same benefits. And fruit is full of fructose, the worst kind of sugar for us.

    Salt will make you explode? No, the only evidence we have that it has any effect on blood pressure at all, is that for a small number of people who have high blood pressure, reducing salt will cause a small drop in blood pressure, even then, they are better off taking drugs to lower their blood pressure. For the rest of us it seems to have little or no effect.

    Saturated fat is poison? Not according to study after study, which shows that the amount of saturated fat in our diets has little relationship to our life-expectancy or cardiovascular health. Poly-unsaturated fats cause an imbalance of omega 3 and 6 which often has to be compensated for by drugs. How much does that cost?

    1. mark1978

      Re: Obesity dumb bomb

      You make a good point. I did read somewhere that people who smoke are actually less of a burden to the state than those who don't. Partly because they contribute with tax on their purchases of cigarettes, they will likely have severe health problems which does cost the NHS, but they are also likely to die much earlier than non-smokers so the amount of care required in their old age is less, cos they're dead.

    2. Magister

      Re: Obesity dumb bomb

      Your first paragraph is an interesting assumption - Wealthier nations are fatter, Wealthier people live longer, therefore fat people live longer.

      Yes, if you live in a wealthier nation, the chances are that you will live longer. This is due to increased medical provision, less wear and tear on the body, increased access to medication, significantly better geriatric care. Most of those that live longer are not those that are obese, but those that have a more natural body weight.

      The greater the body weight, the more risk of heart and other cardio vascular problems, strokes, type 2 diabetes, intestinal problems, kidney / liver failure, certain types of cancer, osteoarthritis, and problems in pregnancy for women.

      The fact is that some people can live quite healthy lives eating nothing but processed meat, whilst other consume vast quantities of alcohol with no indication of any health problems. But for the majority of people, the best advice is maintain a sensible mix of food products in appropriate quantities for the amount of physical activity that they do; and that a sensible amount of exercise is appropriate for everyone.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obesity dumb bomb

      " Do you know how much being dumb or taking stupid D.I.Y. risks cost the NHS? All personal choices, all avoidable."

      Being dumb is avoidable???

    4. HandleOfGod

      Re: Obesity dumb bomb

      In my experience, those people who don't like reading about the health implications of being considerably overweight are generally those people who realise that to believe what they are reading means accepting they need to make some significant lifestyle changes or they will pay the consequence. It is much easier to consider the research flawed and dismiss it than it is to make the lifestyle changes necessary to address the problem. I have both family members and friends who demonstrate this amply.

      Now the argument about the politicisation of research is a genuine one, without doubt, so I'm always prepared to take a look beyond the headlines but I am afraid my own real life experience really does actually support, in principle at least. In more specific terms I don't buy into the media hysteria about excesses of salt etc because, frankly, most of it's common sense. The simple maxim "everything in moderation" is really all you need to live by to fine - that consuming 1/2 a kilo of salt / saturated fat / media's poison of choice in short order is bad for you shouldn't really come as a surprise. But I'd argue that if your BMI is much above 30 then you're probably not living by the simple maxim.

      Just tell my friend (down from 17st to 12st in the last 7 months) that her health is no better now than it was before and see how far it gets you.... or perhaps talk to my dad (denier in chief) who's spent a life time telling me that 3-4 sugars in his tea, half a pint of cream on his desert etc won't have any detrimental effects on his health. I wonder if he tells the pharmacist the same thing when he picks up his blood pressure tablets, diabetes tablets, cholesterol tablets that the NHS has to pay for? To say nothing of the sleep apnea kit. And clearly he doesn't see the link either when he "isn't feeling well today" for non-specific reasons (happens 2-3 days a week) and so on.

    5. AdamWill

      Re: Obesity dumb bomb

      "Wealthier nations also live longer and healthier lives, no contradiction there?"

      Well no, not really. For a start, you work out life expectancies by looking at when people die. Seems obvious, yes? But think of the corollary. Effectively, all life expectancy data is, oh, several decades 'out of date'. When you talk about the life expectancy of Britons you're really talking about the life expectancy of Britons _who are dying today_. Which, since it's around 80, means 'people who were born in the 1930s and grew up in the 1940s'. There are notional life expectancy statistics which purport to tell you what your chances of living to Age X are, but these are what we can call 'notional' or less politely, 'guesses'.

      So if it's really true that lack of activity a) is a factor in life-threatening diseases and b) is massively more prevalent than it was in the past, you won't find this reflected in current life expectancy statistics, and you can't counter the proposal by using life expectancy statistics.

      Second, you can't just say 'oh, life expectancy is rising so any kind of suggestion that any trend might be unhealthy is wrong!', because it fails to account for all sorts of _other_ factors. Your life expectancy is based on a huge range of stuff. It's perfectly possible that, say, there could be three or four trends that are broadly negative, but eight or nine that are broadly positive, and so the overall trend of life expectancy continues to rise. That doesn't mean the negative trends aren't negative, and it doesn't mean that you can't give yourself an _even better chance_ at a long healthy life by avoiding the negative trends as well as taking advantage of the positive ones (vastly improved healthcare, lower smoking rates etc).

      You seem to spend the rest of your post flailing at a straw man; the article didn't say anything at all about costs to the NHS. I don't know about you, but I try to avoid doing unhealthy things (and do healthy things) for entirely selfish reasons. I don't give a stuff how much it costs the NHS...

  12. Derk

    What my doctor told me....

    I was told by my doctor, not to join a gym, he said walk to the gym if you like, then turn around and walk back. His reasoning is that he deals with so many injuries from enthusiastic keep fit fanatics.

    I'm self employed and usually stuck in front of monitors all day doing CAD. But I do make time to go out and walk 3-4 miles every day. Its not difficult. What I did find difficult was being employed in a company with a stressful culture, ending every day knackered, falling asleep in a chair when I got home, getting fatter by the year. Hard work never killed anyone? I disagree. Too many people have too much stress, which in my opinion leads to comfort eating. It certainly does not help them to sit in front of the idiot box every night, watch endless adverts for food and cooking shows.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simon Sharwood

    Apparently, this guy is an "editor".

    He has difficulty forming coherent sentences.

  14. dotdavid

    Years off your life

    The way I see it, having a slothful peaceful but unhealthy lifestyle might take years off my life, but it'll be the crap years at the end when I can't get around properly and need help to visit the loo.

    I may as well fill my reduced life with some nice food and less effort, as long as it is kept in moderation.

    Beer icon 'cos it's bad for you but nice.

  15. ZanzibarRastapopulous

    ...the eight most-inactive nation...

    S fa an laz w can' eve b bothere finishin word.

  16. Trokair 1

    Yankee Redemption

    Finally some redemption. You guys are more sloth like than us "Mericans"? Who'd a thunk? Enjoy your diabetes fatties. I'm off to the gym.

    Flame on.

    1. HandleOfGod

      Re: Yankee Redemption

      Well I'm a Brit and I'm not surprised. However I expect the stats (which I haven't studied closely) disguise a wider variation by reducing it to averages. After all, the average of 19+21 is 20 and so is the average of 10+30. I imagine the US is probably more extreme at either end but a bigger country with much more open space, greater interest and participation in sports (albeit with a more limited selection of them) really should expect to fair better over all.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @HandleOfGod (was: Re: Yankee Redemption)

        "albeit with a more limited selection of them"

        How do you figure? From my perspective, quite the opposite ... That is speaking as a yank who has spent roughly 20% of his life in Blighty, or around ten years in total.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The study ranks the United Kingdom as the eight most-inactive nation on earth"

    Surely "The study ranks the United Kingdom as the four most inactive nations on earth".

  18. ifconfig

    They're sure it's *nothing* to do with annual temperature ranges?

    I mean, who'd go outside in Britain, if they didn't have to? :-P

    Love from Australia.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: They're sure it's *nothing* to do with annual temperature ranges?

      I've spent time in Australia ... I'll take the weather in the UK any day.

  19. itzman

    In these troubled economicc times beset by imbecility....

    Frankly what else is there to do?

    No point in getting out of bed and trying to achieve anything, because someone will take it away from you, and as far as having an intelligent conversation? Best to talk to yourself.

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