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Inactivity more deadly than obesity

Walking not only makes you feel alive, it is also helping to keep you alive according to new research studies. Fresh evidence has emerged that just a little bit of exercise, such as 20 minutes brisk walking a day, is extremely beneficial, regardless of whether people are overweight/obese or not.


A lack of exercise could be killing twice as many people as obesity in Europe, a 12-year study of more than 300,000 people suggests. The researchers said that of the 9.2 million deaths in Europe in 2008, about 676,000 were down to inactivity, compared with 337,000 from carrying too much weight.

Of course, obesity and inactivity often go hand in hand. However, it is known that thin people have a higher risk of health problems if they are inactive. And obese people who exercise are in better health than those that do not.

walkingstepThe study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in Jan 2015 and undertaken through a partnership between the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London and a long list of other collaborators, attempted to tease out the relative dangers of inactivity and obesity. Researchers followed 334,161 Europeans for 12 years. They assessed exercise levels and waistlines and recorded every death. The activity levels of participants were categorised using the activity undertaken across all aspects of life: occupational, recreational and household. The greatest risk of an early death was in those classed inactive, and that was consistent in normal weight, overweight and obese people.

This is another piece of the mounting evidence suggesting that physical activity needs to be recognised as a very important public health strategy. The World Health Organisation has identified a lack of physical activity as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, being directly implicated in 6% of deaths worldwide.

According to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, regular physical activity can improve academic attainment and healthy development in children and young people, improves productivity and health outcomes in young and middle aged adults, whilst maintaining functional independence in older adults. Regular physical activity helps maintain good mental and physical health, and helps prevent over 40 chronic diseases.

Outdoor walking groups have a key role to play, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in January 2015. This review and meta-analysis provides evidence that outdoor walking groups have health benefits over and above making people more physically active. Statistically significant improvements were found in a range of widely used measures of health including blood pressure, resting heart rate, body fat, cholesterol, depression and quality of life for physical functioning.

So...what’s not to love about walking?


20 January 2015



Physical activity and all-cause mortality study, Dr Ulf Ekelund et al, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 14 January 2015

Global health risks: mortality and burden of disease attributable to selected major risks. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2009.

Maintaining health and treating illness through regular physical activity; a position statement produced by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, 07 January 2015

Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits?, Sarah Hanson and Andy Jones, British Journal of Sports Medicine, 19 January 2015

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