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Exercise prevents 26,600 early deaths in the UK every YEAR, new study shows 

Exercise prevents 26,600 early deaths in the UK every YEAR… and almost four million around the world, new study shows

  • Getting plenty of exercise prevents 26,600 early deaths in the UK every year 
  • Study finds 15 per cent of premature deaths globally prevented through exercise
  • Now there is an emphasis on praising health benefits, not issuing warnings 

Getting plenty of exercise prevents 26,600 early deaths in the UK every year – and almost four million around the world, a study shows. 

Researchers at Cambridge and Edinburgh universities calculated the figures after deciding that too much focus is given to the negative health consequences of modern sedentary lifestyles.

Instead of repeatedly telling people they will die if they sit on the sofa, health leaders should celebrate the benefits of getting active, they say. 

Dr Paul Kelly, of the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘We believe there is value in trying to understand the benefits that “healthy behaviours” confer in order to argue for maintaining and increasing them.

Getting plenty of exercise prevents 26,600 early deaths in the UK every year – and almost four million around the world, a study shows

Getting plenty of exercise prevents 26,600 early deaths in the UK every year – and almost four million around the world, a study shows

‘Can we look instead at population activity levels and estimate the health benefits of all this activity to society? 

The researchers, whose work is published in the Lancet Global Health journal, modelled the proportion of deaths prevented if people are physically active. 

They found that 64 per cent of people in the UK meet the recommended physical activity guidelines – 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. 

By combining this data with estimates of the relative risk of dying early for active people compared to inactive people, the authors were able to estimate the number of premature deaths prevented through exercise. 

They found that globally, 15 per cent of premature deaths are prevented through exercise – equating to approximately 3.9million lives saved per year. 

Health experts often frame the debate in terms of the number of early deaths due to lack of physical activity – estimating that 3.2million die prematurely each year. 

Now there is a growing emphasis on health leaders to praise exercise benefits, rather than simply issuing warnings regarding the detriment effects of not getting out and about

Now there is a growing emphasis on health leaders to praise exercise benefits, rather than simply issuing warnings regarding the detriment effects of not getting out and about

Study found globally, 15 per cent of premature deaths are prevented through exercise - equating to approximately 3.9million lives saved per year

Study found globally, 15 per cent of premature deaths are prevented through exercise – equating to approximately 3.9million lives saved per year

Dr Kelly added: ‘Research into lifestyle factors such as lack of physical activity, poor diet, drinking alcohol, and smoking, tends to focus on the harms these do to health. 

‘This helps create a narrative to try and prevent and reduce these behaviours.’ Dr Tessa Strain, of the Cambridge MRC Epidemiology Unit, said: ‘We’re used to looking at the downsides of not getting enough activity – whether that’s sports or a gym or just a brisk walk at lunchtime. 

‘But by focusing on the number of lives saved, we can tell a good news story of what is already being achieved. It tells us how much good is being done and helps us say, “Look how much benefit physical activity is already providing – let’s make things even better by increasing physical activity levels further”.’ 

She added: ‘Although there’s a risk of complacency – people asking why we need to invest more when it’s already providing benefit – we hope our findings will encourage governments and local authorities to protect and maintain services in challenging economic climates.’

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