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Background:

In Brazil, one-fifth of the population reports not doing any physical activity. This study aimed to assess the impact of physical inactivity on major noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), all-cause mortality and life expectancy in Brazil, by region and sociodemographic profile.

Methods:

We estimated the population attributable fraction (PAF) for physical inactivity associated with coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer, and all-cause mortality. To calculate the PAF, we used the physical inactivity prevalence from the 2008 Brazilian Household Survey and relative risk data in the literature.

Results:

In Brazil, physical inactivity is attributable to 3% to 5% of all major NCDs and 5.31% of all-cause mortality, ranging from 5.82% in the southeastern region to 2.83% in the southern region. Eliminating physical inactivity would increase the life expectancy by an average of 0.31 years. This reduction would affect mainly individuals with ≥ 15 years of schooling, male, Asian, elderly, residing in an urban area and earning ≥ 2 times the national minimum wage.

Conclusions:

In Brazil, physical inactivity has a major impact on NCDs and mortality, principally in the southeastern and central-west regions. Public policies and interventions promoting physical activity will significantly improve the health of the population.

Rezende (lerezende@usp.br), Rabacow, Viscondi, and Luiz are with the Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de São Paulo, Departamento de Medicina Preventiva, Brazil. Rezende and Matsudo are with the Center of Studies and Physical Fitness Laboratory from São Caetano do Sul (CELAFISCS), São Caetano do Sul, Brazil. Lee is with the Dept of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.