Lack of activity a bigger health problem than smoking, says report

Getting active could save 37,000 lives per year and £10 billion

by John Stevenson   October 7, 2013  

Doctors (CC licenced by Mercy Health:Flickr)

Lack of physical activity tops smoking as one of the UK’s major health problems, leads to almost 37,000 premature deaths per year and costs the economy £10 billion per year, according to a new report.

Commissioned by MacMillan Cancer Support and the Ramblers, the report is an overview of the research into the life-threatening consequences of inactivity. Not very surprisingly given one of its sponsors, it concludes that walking is the answer, but its findings could just as easily be taken that people should get on their bikes, or that active travel of any sort is a good thing.

According to the report:
Physical inactivity is responsible for 10.5% of heart disease cases; 13% of type 2 diabetes cases; and 17% of premature deaths in the UK.
Being inactive shortens lifespan by 3–5 years
The associated health problems of inactivity in England are costing the economy up to £10 billion a year

The Chief Medical Officer guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. The report, Walking Works, indicates that if everyone did that it could prevent:

36,815 people dying prematurely
294,730 cases of diabetes
12,061 people going to hospital for emergency coronary heart disease treatment

Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support said: “It is sad that so many lives are put at risk each year due to inactivity. For cancer patients, being active can help manage some of the debilitating consequences of treatment and can even help reduce the chance of some cancers returning. 

“Inactivity is a nationwide epidemic that must be tackled now before it is too late. Healthcare professionals need to ensure that they prescribe physical activity, such as walking, as an intrinsic part of a healthy lifestyle.”

You can read the report and a summary here


2 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I have read undergraduate essays with more real or new scientific content than this. Surely be sedentary and not smoking is better than sedentary and smoking? What about going for a nice walk and stop for a full english and a bucket of beer at the end?

There is no doubt that inactivity is a problem, so is smoking and drinking amongst others, but to put a report out in this manner is discussing, I could conclude that people that smoke are going to be generally more inactive because they dont have the lungs to get out (even though until a week ago i did)

You could draw a conclusion, that in general active people are healthier because they understand that a better diet or healthy lifestyle enables them to be more active.

More to the point you can conclude anything you like, but with a lack of actual scientific research, this means nothing

im sure we will never see this is a peer reviewed journal at any time soon

posted by jason.timothy.jones [303 posts]
7th October 2013 - 13:57


35 miles commuting plus 4 miles walking the dog today, should live till I'm a hundred. Unless one of those "inactive" car drivers gets me first Wink

Stands to reason being active swings things in your favour, but there's no certainties in this world. So enjoy it while you can.

Endorphines going up and adrenaline going down, who needs drugs?

posted by banzicyclist2 [281 posts]
7th October 2013 - 20:56