16 January 2015 by Neil Boston
A 12 year study of more than 334,00 people published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition this week, showed lack of exercise to be twice as deadly as obesity. They also found that a brisk 20 minute walk each day is all it takes to avoid an earlier death.
Details of the study’s findings
Researchers estimated that 337,000 of the 9.2 million annual deaths amongst European men and women were attributable to obesity (BMI greater than 30). Twice this number, 676,000 deaths could be attributed to physical inactivity.
The study found that even small amounts of exercise, such as a brisk 20 minutes walk each day, had major beneficial health impacts, reducing the risk of premature death.
Avoiding inactivity reduced the risk of death from any cause by 7.35 per cent over the study period (12 years). In comparison, having a BMI under obesity levels was estimated to lower mortality by just 3.66 per cent.
How was the study conducted?
Participants in the research had an average age of around 50 when recruited to the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer study conducted across 9 European countries, including the UK.
All had their height, weight and waist sizes measured and provided self-assessments of physical activity levels, alcohol consumption, past and present smoking habits and other information to the researchers.
22.7 per cent (less than a quarter), were categorized as completely inactive, working in sedentary jobs without engaging in any recreational exercise.
The greatest reductions in the risk of premature death were seen when comparing moderately active groups with those who were completely inactive.
Study authors’ statements
The leader of the study, Professor Ulf Ekelund, from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at Cambridge University said “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.”
His co-author Professor Nick Wareham, director of the Medical Research Council’s Epidemiology Unit, said: “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.”
Be healthy; get moving.