Physical inactivity may be associated with twice as many deaths as obesity, according to research.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that just a modest increase in physical activity, such as a brisk 20 minute walk, could have significant health benefits.
Researchers, from University of Cambridge, studied data from 334,000 European men and women, and measured height, weight and waist circumference, and measured levels of physical activity using self-assessment.
Using data on European deaths, they estimated that 337,000 of the 9.2 million deaths amongst European men and women were attributable to obesity but twice this number of deaths could be attributed to physical inactivity.
They also estimated that doing exercise equivalent to a 20 minute brisk walk each day would reduce their risk of premature death by between 16 to 30 per cent.
June Davison, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “The results of this study are a clear reminder that being regularly physically active can reduce the risk of dying from coronary heart disease.
"The research suggests that just a modest increase in physical activity can have health benefits.
"Adults should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week, carrying it out in sessions of 10 minutes or more.
"Whether it’s going for a walk, taking a bike ride or using the stairs instead of the lift, keeping active every day will help reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease."