Walks ‘could prevent 37,000 deaths’
Monday 7th October 2013, 12:11AM BST.
Almost 37,000 deaths in England could be prevented every year if people walked for just two and a half hours every week , according to a new report.
A further 12,000 cases of people needing emergency hospital treatment for heart disease could be stopped and almost 7,000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented.
The study, from the Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support, also showed that just 150 minutes a week of moderate activity – such as cycling or fast walking – could prevent almost 5,000 cases of bowel cancer and almost 295,000 cases of diabetes.
“People who stay active are less stressed, sleep better, have a 30% lower risk of getting depressed and reduce their risk of developing dementia,” the report – Walking Works – said.
It added: “Physical inactivity now rivals smoking as one of the nation’s biggest health problems. Today it’s responsible for 17% of early deaths in the UK.
“Physical inactivity is the principle cause of a huge number of common health conditions including 10% of heart disease cases, 13% of type 2 diabetes cases, 18% of colon (bowel) cancer cases and 17% of breast cancer cases.
“But that’s not all. Research reveals that being inactive increases your chances of developing cancer, heart disease or having a stroke by 25-30% and can take three to five years off your life.”
NHS recommendations are for adults aged 19 to 64 to try and be active every day. This includes at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week.
Together, the Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support run Walking for Health, supporting 600 local schemes across England to organise short, free walks led by friendly, trained walk leaders.
More than 70,000 people walk regularly through the scheme at 3,400 weekly walks led by 10,000 volunteers
Ciaran 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.”
Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said in a foreword to the report: ” Like many developed countries, England is experiencing a serious inactivity crisis, with life threatening consequences.
“Four out of 10 men and five out of 10 women are still not active enough to benefit their health.
“This increases the risk of serious illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, and makes it more likely that people will be overweight or obese.
“In England 61% of adults and 30% of children between two and 15 are classed as overweight or obese. The associated health problems of this inactivity are costing the economy up to £10 billion a year.”
Benedict Southworth, chief executive of the Ramblers, said: “We’re facing a serious crisis of inactivity, but there is a simple solution.
“Walking for Health is already changing people’s lives in such a positive way and it has the potential to change many more. We need to see greater investment in initiatives which support and promote walking as the most accessible and affordable way for people to get active.”
The report comes after a study published last week found that postmenopausal women who walk for an hour a day can cut their chance of breast cancer by 14%. Those who were more active cut the risk by 25%.