Lack of physical activity could cause as many as 36,815 premature deaths in England each year, according to statistics released today by the South West Public Health Observatory (SWPHO) and charity Sustrans.
The statistics have been produced to help local authorities estimate how much they could reduce death and illness by promoting physical activity.
They show that current levels of physical activity among people aged 40-79 are low across England and that major health gains could be made if they increased.
It has been estimated that if 100% of the population aged 40-79, did recommended levels of physical activity, each year there would be:
12,061 fewer emergency hospital admissions for coronary heart disease
6,735 fewer cases of breast cancer
4,719 fewer cases of colorectal cancer
294,730 fewer people living with type 2 diabetes
The Government currently recommends that adults undertake two and a half hours of moderate activity per week.
A study published by the Lancet in March 2013 found physical inactivity to be one of the top risk factors for death and disability in the UK, alongside smoking, hypertension, obesity and alcohol.
Sustrans Chief Executive Malcolm Shepherd said: "Until now inactivity has been a hidden killer, with few people realising how dangerous an inactive lifestyle can be.
"Health experts agree that walking and cycling are the easiest ways for people to get the exercise they need, but too many people don't feel safe on our roads.
"We can no longer ignore the problem – local authorities must take immediate action to improve the health of their communities by making walking and cycling the safest, easiest and most enjoyable ways to travel."
Professor Julia Verne, Director of the South West Public Health Observatory, said:
"While we realise there are some people who cannot engage fully in physical activity, the tool is useful in highlighting the scale of the impact of physical activity on health. Small increases in activity, even for those who can't be fully active would still deliver big health benefits.
"Local authorities can use the tool to raise awareness about the importance of physical activity and to think of ways to get people active in their area.
"There are many ways to do this. While improving sporting facilities is important, the key for most people is to build physical activity into their daily lives, rather than thinking of it as something extra to fit in to already hectic lifestyles. One way to do this is to leave cars at home, walk and cycle more often to school, work and for leisure."
Notes to editors:
For further information and an interview with Professor Julia Verne, please contact Jo Fainlight at the South West Public Health Observatory on 0117 970 6474, ext 318, email: Jo.email@example.com
Sustrans spokespeople and case studies available. Sustrans Press Office can be contacted on 0207 780 7231 or firstname.lastname@example.org
To view the HIPI tool and download the data, visithttp://www.apho.org.uk/resource/view.aspx?RID=123459
Info-graphic map of English regions available herehttps://www.dropbox.com/s/h5e77usmtmxswtk/Final-Map%20%282%29.jpg
The South West Public Health Observatory (SWPHO) is one of nine public health observatories in England which aim to improve the health of the population through the collection, monitoring and
analysis of data. We produce evidence to inform decision-making on health issues at local, regional and national levels. The SWPHO will be part of Public Health England from 1 April 2013.
Sustrans is the charity that's enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys we make every day. It's time we all began making smarter travel choices. Make your move and support Sustrans today.
HIPI has been developed by a working group, including the South West Public Health Observatory, Sustrans, National Obesity Observatory, Bristol City Council and South West Public Health Training Scheme.