Being inactive is worse for your health than being obese, according to a new study from Cambridge University.
Over a 12-year period, researchers looked at the weights, waistlines and exercise habits of more than 300,000 people across Europe, and studied how much danger each posed to people's health.
Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the results show being a couch potato who does no exercise increases your chance of death two-fold compared to being overweight – around 676,000 deaths resulted from inactivity over the course of the study, while obesity caused a comparatively small 337,000 deaths.
The fact that lack of physical activity is dangerous to health should not come as a surprise – it has been known for a long time that it increases risk of developing heart diseases and cancer. What is interesting is how little exercise is needed to make a big difference.
How to be healthy
According to researchers, doing just 20 minutes of brisk walking each day offers everyone significant health benefits, no matter what weight they are.
"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,” explained Professor Ulf Ekelund, one of the lead researchers in the study.
But he added that, if possible, people should aim to do even more: “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."