(HealthDay News) — Being sedentary may be twice as deadly as being obese, a new study suggests. However, even a little exercise — a brisk 20-minute walk each day, for example — is enough to reduce the risk for an early death by as much as 30%, the British researchers added.
The report was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Ulf Ekelund, PhD, from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and colleagues collected data from 334,161 men and women. Over an average of 12 years of follow-up, they measured height, weight, waist circumference and self-reported levels of physical activity.
Ekelund’s group found that a moderate amount of physical activity, compared with no activity, was the key to lowering the chances of premature death. The researchers estimated that exercise that burns between 90 and 110 calories a day could reduce the risk for an early death by between 16% and 30%. The effect of moderate exercise was greatest among normal-weight people, but even overweight and obese people saw a benefit, they said.
Using the most recent data on deaths in Europe, Ekelund’s team estimated that 337,000 of the 9.2 million deaths of European men and women were linked to obesity. However, twice that number of deaths could be connected to lack of exercise.
The risk reduction was seen in normal-weight, overweight, and obese people, Ekelund told HealthDay. “We estimated that eradicating physical inactivity in the population would reduce the number of deaths twice as much as if obesity was eradicated,” he said.