Cohen Lecture 2015-16

"Physical Inactivity: The Biggest Public Health Problem of the 21st Century"

Sedentary habits are highly prevalent in most countries of the world. In the U.S. approximately 25-35% of adults are inactive, meaning that they have sedentary jobs, no regular physical activity program, and are generally sedentary around the house and yard. Given that sedentary and unfit individuals are at approximately two-fold higher risk for many health conditions than those who are moderately active and fit, the population attributable risk (PAR) of inactivity is high. In the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study (ACLS) the PAR for low fitness in more than 50,000 women and men followed for many years is 16-17% of deaths. This is far higher than other putative risk factors for mortality. For example, obesity accounts for 2-3% of deaths in this cohort. Another example from the ACLS is that in 3,293 obese men (BMI ≥30.0), 27% of the deaths might have been avoided if none of the men had prevalent cardiovascular disease at baseline whereas 44% of the deaths might have been avoided if none of the men had been unfit. The independent relative risks for death are comparable for prevalent cardiovascular disease (RR=2.4) and for low fitness (RR=2.3). Over the past few decades we have largely engineered the need for physical activity at home, on the job, and during leisure-time out of the daily lives of most people in industrialized societies. To address the major public health problem of physical inactivity we will need to consider and evaluate societal, environmental, and individual approaches to making physical activity more common for more people more of the time.


About the Cheryl J. Cohen Lecture Series

This lecture series is provided to Western Illinois University through an endowment from Cheryl J. Cohen, Professor Emeritus.  The lecture series is the first endowed lecture series for the College of Education and Human Services and the Kinesiology Department.  It is scheduled to occur every fall and kicked off its inaugural year in 2008.  The focus of the annual Cohen Lecture alternates between exercise physiology and sport psychology.