Walk 20 minutes to live longer: Huge study reveals benefit of daily exercise (and how a lack of it kills twice as many people as obesity) 

  • A lack of exercise kills twice as many people as obesity, researchers warn
  • The Cambridge University study found even modest activity prolongs life
  • Twenty minutes of walking a day cuts premature risk of death by a third

A brisk daily walk of just 20 minutes could add years to your life, scientists said last night.

In a stark warning against couch-potato lifestyles, they said lack of exercise killed twice as many people as obesity.

The Cambridge University study of 334,000 people found that even a modest amount of activity prolonged life. And the least fit had the most to gain.

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A lack of exercise could cause twice as many deaths as obesity, British researchers have warned 

A lack of exercise could cause twice as many deaths as obesity, British researchers have warned 

Twenty minutes of walking a day – or its equivalent – would cut their risk of premature death by almost a third.

The researchers could not say how much extra life could be gained through using exercise in this way to move from the ‘inactive’ to the ‘moderately inactive’ part of the population.

But even the obese could expect a 16 per cent reduced risk of dying early. Those of healthy weight could profit by 30 per cent.

Ulf Ekelund, who led the study, 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 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 researchers estimated that 337,000 of 9.2million recorded deaths of European men and women were attributable to obesity. But twice this number – around 676,000 deaths – could be blamed on inactivity.

But a brisk 20 minute walk every day could cut the chance of dying early, it is claimed

But a brisk 20 minute walk every day could cut the chance of dying early, it is claimed

Government guidelines advise Britons to do 150 minutes of moderate activity such as gardening, dancing or brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, including playing sport, running or aerobics, every week. 

But a recent survey found that a third of people can barely manage to walk for 30 minutes over seven days, even when trips to the shops, work or school are considered.

And a report backed by the initiative Walking for Health last year found that physical inactivity cost the economy up to £10billion a year through sick days, healthcare costs and early deaths.

Professor Nick Wareham, director of the Medical Research Council epidemiology unit at Cambridge, 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.’

 June Davison, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘The results of this study are a clear reminder that being regularly physically active can reduce the risk of dying from coronary heart disease.

‘The research suggests that just a modest increase in physical activity can have health benefits. 

Adults should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week, carrying it out in sessions of ten 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.’

A brisk 20-minute walk would burn between 90 and 110 calories. The study was reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The authors defined premature death as dying before the average age for doing so.

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Labour will advise people exactly how much exercise they should take if the party wins May’s election.

Risking accusations of ‘nannying’, health spokesman Andy Burnham will say today the ‘promotion of physical activity’ must be at the centre of health policy.

Labour will also impose maximum amounts of fat, sugar and salt that can be contained in food marketed at children.

There will be ‘targeted action’ on high-strength, low-cost alcohol with minimum prices and a ban on larger bottles.

And plain cigarette packaging will be introduced immediately to ‘halt the industry’s increasingly sophisticated methods of recruiting new, young smokers’.

Labour want children born in 2015 to become the first ‘smoke-free generation’.


The comments below have not been moderated.

If you find 20 minutes a day too difficult you can split it up. When I was working I did 3 short walks a day, now I' m retired I just do the 20 minutes in the morning sometimes followed by a swim. I find if I don't walk I tend to sit about all day, that early morning walk seems to energise you and puts you in a good frame of mind for the day.

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I don't blame people for not walking outside ...so much crime,..people don't feel safe..Very rarely you see people out walking

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Get on a bike then and pedal fast.

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People who exercise could have told you this. A few days after you stop working out you get the feeling of being sluggish and less flexible. At least I do.

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'...Labour will advise people exactly how much exercise they should take if the party wins May¿s election...' Oh my god, that will definitely swing it.

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When all vehicles have trackers your shorter trips should be charged more per mile than your longer journeys. This should incentivise people to walk more. e.g. minimum cost of GPB 3.00 a bit like a taxi.

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It's sad when the general population has become so lazy that walking 20 minutes in a day is considered exercise rather than simply moving.

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Except for SF and NY I thought the US was built so you needed a car to get to work, school, church or the shops. (At least that is the perception in UK). Also in some states isn't it a bit hot for walking to the shops in the summer.

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My fat's all in my jeans.

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or is that genes ?

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This is true, though I'm more of a cycling fan, and I'm out ever day, however we live in a part of the country, which is very scenic, but for the past week the weather has been atrocious, especially today, and for most of the week where we've had to endure strong wind and torrential. So it isn't possible to go cycling or even walking when the weather is like this, if I had my way the weather would be dry every day , with only a minimal windd so I could go cycling and walking, unfortunately there's nothing I can do about the weather, besides I can't say my day starts out right having to listen to Carol Kirkwood, and Judith Ralston giving us updates, with their insincere fakery.

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Obesity is usually linked, if not the same as the lack of exercise. I've lost 21lbs with the Loaded Gun Diet but I also started to run a mile every day.

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I have always had a problem with people saying obesity CAUSES heart disease or whatever, because it is really POOR DIET--both in the sense of not getting enough of and the right types of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients, and in the sense of dosing the body with undesirable ingredients like additives, sugar and refined things--that causes all the major inflamation and other pre-disease conditions that eventually leads to illness. So that obesity is really a bit of a red herring. The same things in your food that made you fat are the real culprits behind your poor health state, and it is therefore not enough to merely try to lose weight for your health! Very important idea and it underlines the importance of learning and applying the principles of the complicated art of nutrition..

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In another startling revelation some of the world's leading academics have discovered that 2 + 2 = 4. I'm speechless. Another lot will soon be telling us these particular academics have got it all wrong.

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