It’s no secret that the exercise/diet double whammy is a healthier way to lose weight than diet alone. In addition to shedding fat, exercise improves your cardiovascular system, regulates blood sugar, builds muscle, regulates hormones, and strengthens bones—potentially warding off everything from arthritis to type 2 diabetes to osteoporosis to depression to heart complications.
But a new study out of the University of Cambridge in the U.K. brings these findings into sharper focus. Researchers concluded that while 337,000 Europeans die every year from obesity-related issues, 676,000 Europeans die from inactivity-related issues. In other words, you’re twice as likely to die from sitting around than from being overweight.
Admittedly, there’s overlap in the latter death rate as both a sedentary lifestyle and being overweight can cause many of the same conditions. To find the differentiation, researchers tracked 334,161 Europeans over a 12-year period, assessing exercise levels, waistlines, and, of course, deaths.
“The greatest risk was in those classed inactive, and that was consistent in normal weight, overweight and obese people,” researcher Prof Ulf Ekelund told the BBC, “but I don’t think it’s a case of one or the other. We should also strive to reduce obesity, but I do think physical activity needs to be recognized as a very important public health strategy.”
The researchers recommended at least twenty minutes of brisk activity each day, although the CDC recommends a similar amount (150 minutes a week) plus at least two weekly bouts of muscle-strengthening activity.
Whichever advice you take, the situation is obvious: get off that couch.
Beachbody co-founder and President Jon Congdon views the research as validation for a message he’s been spreading for years. “This study shows that inactivity is actually even more lethal than obesity,” says Congdon, a former elite volleyball player who walks his talk by doing his own programs regularly, “It’s just further evidence that dieting your way to being thin is not enough—you must move!”