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Lack of exercise responsible for twice as many early deaths as obesity

Date:
January 14, 2015
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
A brisk 20 minute walk each day could be enough to reduce an individual's risk of early death, according to new research published today. The study of over 334,000 European men and women found that twice as many deaths may be attributable to lack of physical activity compared with the number of deaths attributable to obesity, but that just a modest increase in physical activity could have significant health benefits.
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A brisk 20 minute walk each day could be enough to reduce an individual's risk of early death, according to new research published today. The study of over 334,000 European men and women found that twice as many deaths may be attributable to lack of physical activity compared with the number of deaths attributable to obesity, but that just a modest increase in physical activity could have significant health benefits.

Physical inactivity has been consistently associated with an increased risk of early death, as well as being associated with a greater risk of diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Although it may also contribute to an increased body mass index (BMI) and obesity, the association with early death is independent of an individual's BMI.

To measure the link between physical inactivity and premature death, and its interaction with obesity, researchers analysed data from 334,161 men and women across Europe participating in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) Study. Over an average of 12 years, the researchers measured height, weight and waist circumference, and used self-assessment to measure levels of physical activity. The results are published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The researchers found that the greatest reduction in risk of premature death occurred in the comparison between inactive and moderately inactive groups, judged by combining activity at work with recreational activity; just under a quarter (22.7%) of participants were categorised as inactive, reporting no recreational activity in combination with a sedentary occupation. The authors estimate that doing exercise equivalent to just a 20 minute brisk walk each day -- burning between 90 and 110 kcal ('calories') -- would take an individual from the inactive to moderately inactive group and reduce their risk of premature death by between 16-30%. The impact was greatest amongst normal weight individuals, but even those with higher BMI saw a benefit.

Using the most recent available data on deaths in Europe the researchers estimate that 337,000 of the 9.2 million deaths amongst European men and women were attributable to obesity (classed as a BMI greater than 30): however, double this number of deaths (676,000) could be attributed to physical inactivity.

Professor Ulf Ekelund from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, who led the study, says: "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."

Professor Nick Wareham, Director of the MRC Unit, adds: "Helping people to lose weight can be a real challenge, and whilst we should continue to aim at reducing population levels of obesity, public health interventions that encourage people to make small but achievable changes in physical activity can have significant health benefits and may be easier to achieve and maintain."


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Cambridge. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ulf Ekelund, Heather A Ward, Teresa Norat, Jian'an Luan, Anne M May, Elisabete Weiderpass, Stephen S Sharp, Kim Overvad, Jane Nautrup Østergaard, Anne Tjønneland, Nina Føns Johnsen, Sylvie Mesrine, Agnès Fournier, Guy Fagherazzi, Antonia Trichopoulou, Pagona Lagiou, Dimitrios Trichopoulos, Kuanrong Li, Rudolf Kaaks, Pietro Ferrari, Idlir Licaj, Mazda Jenab, Manuela Bergmann, Heiner Boeing, Domenico Palli, Sabina Sieri, Salvatore Panico, Rosario Tumino, Paolo Vineis, Petra H Peeters, Evelyn Monnikhof, H Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita, J Ramón Quirós, Antonio Agudo, María-José Sánchez, José María Huerta, Eva Ardanaz, Larraitz Arriola, Bo Hedblad, Elisabet Wirfält, Malin Sund, Mattias Johansson, Timothy J Key, Ruth C Travis, Kay-Tee Khaw, Søren Brage, Nicholas J Wareham, and Elio Riboli. Physical activity and all-cause mortality across levels of overall and abdominal adiposity in European men and women: the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Study (EPIC). Am J Clin Nutr, January 14, 2015 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.114.100065

Cite This Page:

University of Cambridge. "Lack of exercise responsible for twice as many early deaths as obesity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 January 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150114143118.htm>.
University of Cambridge. (2015, January 14). Lack of exercise responsible for twice as many early deaths as obesity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 26, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150114143118.htm
University of Cambridge. "Lack of exercise responsible for twice as many early deaths as obesity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150114143118.htm (accessed August 26, 2016).