A new study by the Lancet Medical Journal has found that Saudi Arabia’s population is the third most slothful in the world with 68.3 percent of adults failing to get any exercise.
Only in Malta and Swaziland are adults even more inactive than in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi newspaper Al Watan newspaper reported that the news, first published in the Times of Malta, shows that the lack of exercise is leading to fatal diseases.
According to the study, one-fifth of all deaths in Malta, where more people die of inactivity than anywhere else in the world, are attributed to the lack of physical activity, a primary factor behind coronary heart diseases.
The report, which uses data from the World Health Organization, suggests that “the couch potato lifestyle” kills about five million people worldwide a year, making inactive lifestyles comparable to smoking in terms of the effect on health.
The study defines inactivity as not performing any of the following three sorts of activities: 30 minutes of moderate activity such as brisk walking at least five times a week; 20 minutes of vigorous activity at least three times a week; or an equivalent combination of the two said activities.
Inactivity has largely been blamed on wrong social trends, such as spending more time in cars and in front of computers.
Inactivity a cause of death
Only two to three generations ago, the native population of the Gulf countries’ main sources of income included physical labor such as fishing, goat herding and pearl diving.
The development of the Gulf oil wealth has highly changed the lifestyle of the region’s population. Thousands of people have been tempted to occupy convenient positions in governmental institutions that receive abundant funding or offer them sufficient unemployment benefits.
Kuwait and the UAE also rank in the top ten with 64.5 percent and 62.5 percent of adults respectively not meeting the recommended level of activity
In this context, nutritionist and occupational therapist Daniela Cassola insisted on the importance of daily physical exercise that could prevent many diseases, especially heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
According to the International Diabetes Federation, an umbrella organization of more than 200 national associations, five GCC countries feature in the top ten diabetes prevalence list with Saudi Arabia ranked seventh in the world.
In Britain and Greece 17 % and 4.2% of deaths respectively are linked to the lack of physical activity. The United States features on the list 10.8 per cent while Malta ranks first in countries with 19.2 percent of deaths linked to physical inactivity
The report, published to coincide with the 2012 London Olympics set to begin on July 27, warned that a lack of exercise is causing as many deaths - 5.3million to be exact - as smoking. One in ten deaths worldwide is caused by illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and breast and colon cancer.
Researchers said governments need to look at ways to make physical activity more convenient, affordable and safer since the issue now is serious enough to be treated as a pandemic.