A brisk 20-minute walk each day could be enough to reduce an individual’s risk of early death, according to a new research.
The study of European men and women found that twice as many deaths may be attributable to lack of physical activity compared with the number of deaths attributable to obesity.
To measure the link between physical inactivity and premature death, and its interaction with obesity, Cambridge University researchers analysed data from 334,161 men and women across Europe participating in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) Study.
Between 1992 and 2000, the researchers measured height, weight and waist circumference, and used self-assessment to measure levels of physical activity. The participants were then followed up over 12 years, during which 21,438 participants died.
The researchers found that the greatest reduction in risk of premature death occurred in the comparison between inactive and moderately inactive groups, judged by combining activity at work with recreational activity; just under a quarter (22.7 per cent) of participants were categorised as inactive, reporting no recreational activity in combination with a sedentary occupation.
The authors estimated that doing exercise equivalent to just a 20 minute brisk walk each day – burning between 90 and 110 kcal – would take an individual from the inactive to moderately inactive group and reduce their risk of premature death by between 16-30 per cent.
The impact was greatest amongst normal weight individuals, but even those with higher BMI saw a benefit.
Using the most recent available data on deaths in Europe, the researchers said that 337,000 of the 9.2 million deaths amongst European men and women were attributable to obesity, however, double this number of deaths (676,000) could be attributed to physical inactivity.