Americans spend a lot of time worrying about weight. We try every new diet trick that comes along in our quest to lower that number on the scale. We do it because we want to look better and feel better. And because we know that carrying too much weight is unhealthy. But there’s something that else that’s killing us. It’s our sedentary lifestyle. If you think it’s okay to be a couch potato because you’re thin, you’re making a huge mistake.
According to researchers at the University of Cambridge, lack of exercise is responsible for twice as many deaths as obesity, and a brisk 20-minute walk a day is probably enough to lower your risk of early death.
Lack of exercise is associated with increased risk of heart disease and cancer, among other health concerns. While lack of exercise may put on weight, study authors found that the association with early death was not related to a person’s body mass index (BMI).
The Cambridge study involved more than 334,161 men and women across Europe. Researchers recorded the participants’ height, weight, and waist circumference. Physical activity during the 12-year study was self-assessed. During the study, 21,438 participants died.
The biggest reduction in the risk of premature death showed up between the inactive and moderately inactive groups. Activity on the job, as well as recreational activity were considered. Of the participants, 22.7 percent were in the inactive group — those who had sedentary jobs and no participation in recreational activities. Study authors suggest that a 20-minute brisk walk each day, or an equivalent exercise, would move you from the inactive group into the moderately inactive group, lowering your risk of premature death by 16 to 30 percent. It’ll also burn between 90 and 110 calories. The impact on your health is greater if you’re of normal weight, but people with higher BMI also benefit.
The study was led by Professor Ulf Ekelund from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge.
In addition to improving physical health, exercise can boost your energy, improve your mood, and help you sleep better.