Physical inactivity should be treated as a medical condition, Mayo says

A sedentary lifestyle is a medical condition--and should be diagnosed and treated as such, Mayo Clinic researchers said in a study in The Journal of Physiology.

Linked to diabetes, high blood pressure and joint damage, among other serious health concerns, physical inactivity affects both obese patients and patients that are not overweight, researchers noted.

"I would argue that physical inactivity is the root cause of many of the common problems that we have," Mayo Clinic physiologist Michael Joyner said in an announcement. "If we were to medicalize it, we could then develop a way, just like we've done for addiction, cigarettes and other things, to give people treatments and lifelong treatments  that focus on behavioral modifications and physical activity."

For instance, researchers encouraged providers to consider prescribing exercise before the default of prescribing medication, in postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome cases, for instance.

The study comes just in time for the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC found that one-third of Americans are obese. Twelve states (Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia) had an obesity prevalence of 30 percent or more.

In addition to health costs associated with obesity, it comes with a financial price. In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion. The medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight, the CDC said.

For more information:
- read the research announcement
- check out the study
- see the CDC data

Related Articles:
Fierce Q&A: Cleveland Clinic wellness program gets results
More docs address unhealthy lifestyles, but barriers remain
3 ways to bolster patients' health resolutions
Show and tell to help change patient behavior
Conquering chronic disease with lifestyle medicine