People across the world are falling so far short on exercise that the problem has become a global pandemic, causing nearly a tenth of deaths worldwide and killing roughly as many people as smoking, researchers warned this week as an alarming series of studies was published in the Lancet.

Eight out of 10 youngsters age 13 to 15 don't get enough exercise, according to one of the Lancet studies released Tuesday, and nearly a third of adults fall short. The problem is even worse for girls and women, who are less active than boys and men, researchers found.

The results are fatal. Lack of exercise is tied to worldwide killers such as heart disease, diabetes and breast and colon cancer. If just a quarter of inactive adults got enough exercise, more than 1.3 million deaths could be prevented worldwide annually, researchers said. Half an hour of brisk walking five times a week would do the trick.

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