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

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

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


Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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