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A lack of exercise is putting people’s lives at risk

20 June 2013 @TeessideUni


Researchers at Teesside University are discussing collaborations with one of the world’s leading experts on physical inactivity to examine what they are describing as the biggest public health problem of the 21st century.

Professor Steven Blair, from the University of South Carolina, has over 40 years’ experience of research that links physical activity and fitness with many health benefits. He believes it is physical inactivity, rather than obesity, that is the bigger public health risk and an endangerment to people’s lives. Professor Blair challenges the stereotype that all overweight people are unhealthy and instead suggests that with a moderate amount of exercise, obese people can actually be healthier than normal weight people who are physically inactive. As part of his visit Professor Blair gave a talk to health professionals, students and academics titled ‘physical inactivity: the biggest public health problem of the 21st century’.

He also met with Professors Greg Atkinson and Alan Batterham from the University’s Health and Social Care Research Institute. The institute supports and develops research into health and social care topics and Professor Blair is looking at ways he can work alongside experts at Teesside University on future collaborative projects. Professor Blair travels the world to present his research and has published more than 600 scientific papers and book chapters.

He was among the first researchers to show that moderate increases in fitness, irrespective of a person’s body weight, result in reduced mortality rates. 'I have published widely on the fitness-fatness controversy and what my research shows is that obese people who are moderately fit do not suffer from the health problems generally associated with obesity,' explained Professor Blair. '150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week – for example three short ten minutes walks a day – will mean you stay moderately fit regardless of your body weight and this has enormous health benefits. 'It is physical inactivity, not obesity, which is leading to increased mortality rates.

'Obese people who are at least moderately fit are 50% less likely to die in the next decade than normal weight people who are not fit.

'I am not saying there are no public health issues around obesity, but if you are going to evaluate, you have to take physical inactivity into account as well as weight.' Professor Greg Atkinson, whose own research focuses on the human body clock and its impact on health, was inspired by Professor Blair’s visit and hopes to work closely together in the future. He said: 'In my view, Professor Blair is the most important visitor we have had to the research institute.

'He has over 40 years of top class positive research activity and his work really underpins what we are trying to do here. 'We have a lot of common interests which I hope to develop further and that could lead to fully fledged collaborative work.'

In the News

New views on obesity come from US professor
Northern Echo (North Edition), 25/06/2013, p.20
Professor Steven Blair, from South Carolina University, gave a talk and met staff during a visit to Teesside University. He challenges the stereotype that all overweight people are unhealthy, and sugg