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Physical Inactivity Threatens Health of Chinese
Walking ten minutes to go home, cleaning the house, dancing or climbing the stairs every day may help you avoid deadly illnesses such as hypertension, cancer or diabetes.

Unfortunately, such simple and easy ways to keep fit seem to be ignored by many Chinese as they become wealthier and resort to more labor-saving and convenience items in their lifestyles.

Health experts worry that people are spending much more time in front of the TV and behind the wheel of a car, losing many opportunities to consume extra energy from high-fat diets, thus becoming more vulnerable to disease.

Now China's public health authorities have decided to curb the epidemic by encouraging people to do physical exercise.

Dozens of high school students staged a hip-hop dance show at a shopping plaza in the heart of Beijing this morning, attracting many passers-by to join in and keep warm.

It was part of a campaign organized by national and local departments of health, education and sports to mark the annual World Health Day, which falls on Sunday.

Posters and pamphlets with the "Move for Health" slogan of this year's World Health Day and information on fitness and health were handed out nationwide.

Ma Xiaowei, Vice-Minister of Health, said cardiovascular illnesses, cancers, and diabetes were not only a big threat to the health of the Chinese people, but also imposed a heavy social and economic burden on the country.

"Lack of physical activity, tobacco smoking and unbalanced diets are key risk factors," he said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that physical inactivity leads to more than two million deaths per year around the world.

Moreover, insufficient physical exercise doubles the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity, and substantially increases the risk of high blood pressure, lipid disorders, colon cancer, osteoporosis, depression and anxiety, said a WHO document released here.

A study of Chinese people's habits also showed that nearly 15 percent of urban adults were overweight, while poor physical constitutions, high blood pressure, decreased vital capacity, and weakened functions of the heart were common among people older than 40.

What worries the country's health experts most is poor health among young people.

Students of the year 2000 were worse than those of 1995 in terms of physical stamina such as flexibility and endurance, even though average body weight and height have dramatically improved in the 1995-2000 period, according to a national study.

TV-oriented pop culture, heavy burdens in school study, and lack of sports facilities are blamed as the main causes of sedentary lifestyle of young Chinese.

Obesity among students in cities was getting serious, especially among the 7-12 age group, the study showed.

Chinese Vice-Premier Li Lanqing wrote a letter on Sunday to youngsters around the country, encouraging them to take part in physical activities more enthusiastically and to have a "positive and healthy lifestyle".

(Xinhua News Agency April 8, 2002)

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