London (dpa) – It sounds too good to be true: just 20 minutes of exercise a day can cut your risk of premature death by 16-30 per cent. But it is a promise that is soundly based: a 12-year Cambridge University study of the lifestyles and death rates of 334,161 European adults published in the American Journal of Clinical Exercise.
Lead author Ulf Ekelund said the survey showed that lack of exercise causes twice as many deaths as obesity. He said,”Just a small amount of physical activity each day could have substantial health benefits for people who are physically inactive.”
Just a brisk 20-minute walk each day can make all the difference, moving you from the non-active into the moderately active group and bringing on that likelihood of a longer life. Ekelund, a cross-country skier and fitness fanatic, makes the point that the potential marginal health gain is greater for an unfit person getting off the bus a few stops early and walking home than it will be for a fit person fitting in an extra marathon.
There are some obvious conclusions in the study: obesity and inactivity often go hand in hand and that fat people who exercise are in better shape than those that do not. But there are also some surprising ones: thin people have a higher risk of health problems if they are inactive.
“Physical activity needs to be recognised as a very important public health strategy,” Ekelund said. The crucial health benefits of getting out of your chair were underlined by Barbara Dinsdale, from national charity Heart Research UK, who said that exercise “also stimulates the release of endorphins known as ‘happy hormones’ which lifts depression, improving mood and self-esteem and enhances your quality of sleep” and makes for all-round health.