Daily physical activity is more important than weight: New study finds it lowers risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke – even in people who are overweight or obese

Walking, jogging, biking, or doing any physical activity every day will reduce the risk of cancer, heart attack, and stroke, no matter what your body mass index (BMI) is, according to a study.

A team of researchers from Copenhagen University in Denmark evaluated data from The Danish National Health Examination Survey 2007-2008, which involved 10,976 individuals aged 18 and above. The waists of the participants were measured. In addition, the research team took their blood samples in order to determine a substance called C-Reactive Protein (CRP), which increases when the body is fighting off an infection. Moreover, they measured the fitness and maximum oxygen consumption called VO2 max of the participants with the use of an ergometer, an instrument that measures heart and lung function. VO2 max is an aerobic capacity measure that determine how physically fit a person is. They also considered the participants’ age, smoking history, education, and BMI.

The findings of the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, revealed that being physically active every day can reduce the risk of a heart attack, stroke, and cancer – even in people who are overweight or obese. Moreover, it was found that there is a positive link between waist size and CRP in participants in all BMI categories.

“These results suggest that, regardless of BMI, high fitness levels lead to a reduction in abdominal fat mass and low-grade inflammation,” explained Anne-Sophie Wedell-Neergaard of the university’s Centre for Physical Activity.

The findings support past research by the University of Cambridge that discovered physical inactivity is twice as deadly as obesity in Europe. The researches found that approximately 676,000 deaths every year were due to a lack of exercise, in comparison to 337,000 deaths accountable to obesity. They suggested that a minimum of 20 minutes of brisk walking per day would be beneficial. (Related: Physical Activity Improves Longevity: It is Never Too Late to Start.)

Physical inactivity is as deadly as smoking

A previous study published in The Lancet found that a lack of exercise causes as many deaths as smoking worldwide. The study was conducted by a team of international academic researchers on behalf of the Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group. In the study, they estimated the effect of physical inactivity on global deaths and major illnesses, such as coronary heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancer.

They found that one out of 10 cases of heart disease and one out of five cases of colon cancer in the U.K. are caused by physical inactivity. Overall, it was revealed that a lack of exercise caused over 5.3 million of the 57 million deaths that occurred across the world in 2008, which is comparable to the five million deaths due to smoking in 2000. The researchers suggest that a decrease or elimination of a sedentary lifestyle could greatly improve health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends adults aged 18 to 64 to do at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity in a week or a minimum of 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week or an equivalent combination of both.

Read more stories on the benefits of physical activities at Health.news.

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