Consider this your daily reminder to get off your bum: Being sedentary may be twice as dangerous as being obese, according to a new study from the University of Cambridge.
Researchers tracked over 334,000 people for 12 years and compared activity levels and weights among the subjects who died during that time. They calculated how many deaths could have been avoided if all the participants had been more active versus at a healthy weight, and determined that physical activity could have saved twice as many people as weight loss.
How is sitting so fatal? It increases your risk for the diseases responsible for the majority of deaths, including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, says study co-author Soren Brage, Ph.D., head of the physical activity epidemiology program at Cambridge. Exercise, on the other hand, protects you from those same illnesses by lowering your blood pressure and the levels of fat, sugars, and insulin in your blood.
So no matter how jam-packed your day is, remember to move. Just 20 minutes a day of brisk walking lowered the study participants’ risk of early death by 30 percent. (Even if you only have 10 minutes, you can still do The Workout for Busy People.)
“I think it would be hard for most people to argue that they cannot find even 20 minutes in a whole day of 1,440 minutes to do something for their own health benefit,” says Brage. “There are lots of ways to accumulate activity throughout the day, even if you are very busy. Take the stairs or park further away. It all adds up.”
Of course, you don’t have to call it a day after 20 minutes of walking: Doubling that level of activity resulted in additional benefits, the researchers found.