Lack of exercise or obesity? Which would you think would be deadlier? Scientists have now concluded that the former, and not the latter, is much more deadly. In fact, a new study says that lack of exercise is almost twice as deadly as being obese.
The study, performed at Cambridge University and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, says that briskly walking for 20 minutes every day is enough exercise to avoid an early grave. The study on exercise involved more than 334,000 people over 12 years. The researchers found that 337,000 of the 9.2 million examined deaths amongst European men and women were attributed to obesity, but over twice the number of deaths were attributed to physical inactivity.
During the study, the researchers discovered that even small amounts of exercise, like a brisk, 20-minute walk everyday that burns around 100 calories, provided major health impacts and reduced the chances of an early death.
Whereas previous research had found that physical inactivity was linked to heart disease and cancer, this new study found that avoiding inactivity reduced the risk of death by any cause by 7.35 percent over the length of the study. Comparatively, having a body mass index under obesity levels was estimated to lower mortality rates by just 3.66 percent.
The study leader, Professor Ulf Ekelund, from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at Cambridge University, talked about exercise.
“This is a simple message: just a small amount of physical activity each day could have substantial health benefits for people who are physically inactive. Although we found that just 20 minutes would make a difference, we should really be looking to do more than this – physical activity has many proven health benefits and should be an important part of our daily life.”
The participants in the exercise research study had an average age of 50, and were all recruited to the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) study that was conducted across 10 European countries, including Great Britain.
June Davison, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, commented on the results of the exercise study.
“Adults should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week, carrying it out in sessions of 10 minutes or more. Whether it’s going for a walk, taking a bike ride or using the stairs instead of the lift, keeping active every day will help reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease.”
Co-author of the study, Professor Nick Wareham, said that public health interventions should focus on inactivity and not obesity.
“Helping people to lose weight can be a real challenge, and whilst we should continue to aim at reducing population levels of obesity, public health interventions that encourage people to make small but achievable changes in physical activity can have significant health benefits and may be easier to achieve and maintain.”
[Image via FastCoExist]