There are nations where people are always on the go, according to studies published by the British medical journal the Lancet this week. Greece, Guatemala, India and Russia are such places. In these active societies, whatever their flaws, most citizens get enough exercise to prevent heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. That means about two-and-a-half hours of moderate exercise or an hour of strenuous exercise per week. Other countries, such as the US, are more sedentary. And there is a group of countries that are astonishingly, self-destructively inert, where exercise seems to consist of squeezing the remote control and pulling the tops off of lager tins, where fewer than half of men and women fill their weekly quota of recommended movement. These countries include Argentina, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and – to the chagrin of the Lancet’s readers – Britain. ….
The old western model was to put in a gruelling work day and relax with a beer at the end of it. The new model is to loaf on the job and punish oneself at the gym or on the bike trail. This is not necessarily an improvement. If your work is so easy that you need to fill up your free time with bodily maintenance to avoid falling ill, then “free” might be a misnomer.
Christopher Caldwell, “An inquiry into the sloth of nations“, Financial Times, 21 July 2012.
Christopher Caldwell (born 1962) is senior editor at The Weekly Standard, an American opinion magazine published with help from wealthy conservative benefactors such as former owner Rupert Murdoch.
The Lancet articles can be downloaded without charge (registration required) from the 21 July 2012 issue.
The Guardian newspaper provides handy interactive access to The Lancet’s physical inactivity rates, by country.