Researchers have found that high levels of inactivity could be the culprit behind hundreds of thousands of deaths across Europe every year. The figures are double those caused by obesity, they say.
Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on Thursday reported that just a 20-minute brisk walk each day could suffice in reducing the risk of early death. The report was based on work conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge.
The study of 334,161 European men and women entailed researchers measuring their height, weight and waist circumference, and self-assessed levels of physical activity between 1992 and 2,000. Participants in the study were analyzed over a period of 12 years, during which time 21,438 of them died.
Their study also estimated that inactivity had caused roughly 676,000 of the 9.2 million annual deaths in Europe, or twice the rate of deaths caused by obesity. According to the university's press release, those numbers were based on recently collected data.
Physical inactivity is often linked with obesity, which has been also been associated with an increased risk of early death, as well as greater risks of heart disease and cancer.
However the new research carried out by the University of Cambridge's MRC Epidemiology Unit shows that people of any weight or Body Mass Index (BMI) can benefit from increased physical activity.
"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," said Professor Ulf Ekelund who led the study.