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Middle aged people 'should walk faster'

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed

24th August 2017 – Middle aged people should be encouraged to take a brisk 10-minute walk every day to boost their health and cut their risk of dying early, say health officials.

After they hit 40, people often get less exercise because they are juggling priorities in everyday life, say experts from Public Health England (PHE). They are encouraging people to download an NHS app to encourage faster walking that doesn't involve gym membership or buying Lycra exercise gear.


Figures from PHE show that 6.3 million adults aged 40 to 60 are missing out on the health benefits that a daily brisk walk would bring.

It found that:

  • 45% of women and 33% of men are not active enough to ensure good health
  • 26% of women and 19% of men are classed as 'physically inactive'
  • Only 21% of boys and 16% of girls aged 5 to 15 achieve the recommended levels of physical activity

The findings also reveal how lifestyles have changed over time, with people in the UK being 20% less active today than in the 1960s and on average walk 15 miles less a year than 2 decades ago.

TVs, computers and mobiles

A decline in manual employment and a rise in technology is identified as a major contributory factor, along with TV watching and the spread of TVs, computers and smart phones.

Reliance on cars is also to blame, with 64% of trips made in them, compared with 22% on foot and 2% by bike.

Physical inactivity is the 4th largest cause of disability and disease in the UK and costs the country an estimated £7.4 billion each year, according to PHE.


It says the Active 10 app can help people build 10 minutes of brisk activity into their daily lives and build up to more exercise from there. It says walking offers the most potential to increase activity
in adults compared to other forms of exercise.

Dr Jenny Harries, deputy medical director at PHE, says in a statement: "The free app combines walking intensity and time, rather than just distance or steps and is the first of its kind.

"It helps people gradually introduce more activity into their daily routine, with goal setting advice and motivational tips. It has already helped 50,000 adults get more active."

Reducing disease risk

Professor Sir Muir Gray, the clinical adviser behind the app, says: "We all know physical activity is good for your health, but for the first time we're seeing the effects that easily achievable changes can make.

"By walking just 10 continuous minutes at a brisk pace every day, an individual can reduce their risk of early death by 15%. They can also prevent or delay the onset of disability and further reduce their risk of serious health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia and some cancers."

Current advice is that adults should get 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week.

Experts say this can lead to:

  • A 40% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • A 35% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • A 30% reduction in the risk of developing dementia
  • A 20% lower risk of getting some cancers

According to PHE, the national aim should be to get everybody moving more every day and make it part of everyone's routine.

Reviewed on August 24, 2017

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