A lack of exercise could be killing twice as many people as obesity, BBC News reported Thursday, citing a 12-year study of more than 300,000 people.
University of Cambridge researchers blamed about 676,000 deaths in Europe each year on inactivity, compared with 337,000 due to obesity.
They concluded that getting everyone to do at least 20 minutes of brisk walking a day would have substantial benefits.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, followed 334,161 Europeans for 12 years.
“The greatest risk [of an early death] was in those classed inactive, and that was consistent in normal weight, overweight and obese people,” one of the researchers, Professor Ulf Ekelund, told BBC News.
“We should also strive to reduce obesity, but I do think physical activity needs to be recognised as a very important public health strategy.”
Ekelund said: “Twenty minutes of physical activity, equivalent to a brisk walk, should be possible for most people to include on their way to or from work, or on lunch breaks, or in the evening instead of watching TV.”
The study found that the diseases caused by inactivity and obesity were largely the same, such as cardiovascular disease. However, Type 2 diabetes was more common with obesity.
Commenting on the findings, Barbara Dinsdale, from the charity Heart Research UK, said: “This study once again reinforces the importance of being physically active, even when carrying excess weight.
“Changing your lifestyle is all good news for heart health, but physical activity is always easier to achieve and maintain without carrying the extra ‘body baggage’ of too much weight.”
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