Almost one in three people in Britain are at risk of heart disease because of physical inactivity, according to a new study.
The British Heart Foundation claims that levels of sedentary behaviour remain stubbornly high and are likely to be causing as many deaths as smoking.
The charity warns that the UK is suffering one of the most significant national health crises and says that even physically active people are risking cardiovascular disease if they don’t take part in regular vigorous exercise.
The BHF’s associate medical director Dr Mike Knapton said that the issue presents a substantial threat to the nation’s cardiovascular health and carries the risk of early death.
He said: “Making physical activity easier and more accessible for all is of paramount importance if we are to reduce the burden of inactivity-related ill health.
“Sedentary activity is a problem as well – you might be physically active in the evening, but if you spend most of your time sitting behind a computer, whether that’s playing computer games or at work, that too is a risk.”
The charity is urging people to kick-start a more active lifestyle with a challenge to people of all fitness levels to run the equivalent of a marathon (26.2 miles) over the space of one month.
Playing video games, reading and socialising are all listed as examples of “sedentary behaviour” along with the use of mobile phones and computers.
According to the heart charity the most inactive region in the UK is the North West.
Sky News caught up with a group of web designers who had called into a Manchester cafe with their computers to continue their work during lunchtime.
One of them, Chris Atkin, said: “I don’t do much physical activity day to day.
“I know when I was younger I could get away with a lot more.
“I’m not 30 yet but I feel that if I continue with this lifestyle without exercise and without being careful what I eat in 10 years time I’m going to regret it and there wont be any coming back from it.”
His colleague Edward Mortlock said that he spent on average seven and a half hours in front of a computer screen and up to a further two hours at home.
He said: “Once you’ve had a really long session being focused on your work and not really having the time to move around you do get stress on your back and you do start feeling it physically.”
:: Women are 36% more likely to be classified physically inactive than men – 11.8 million women compared to 8.3 million men.
:: The BHF estimates the average man spends over a fifth of his lifetime sitting – equivalent to 78 days each year.
:: More than 5 million deaths worldwide can be attributed to physical inactivity, making it one of the top 10 leading causes of death.
However Dr Knapton said: “It’s relatively simple and easy to do something about it.
“We can all do something to improve matters, and the first thing, I think, is that we can all take a bit more physical activity in our lives.
“It might not meet the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines, but just taking more physical activity on a daily basis will reduce your risk of heart disease, fatal heart disease in the future.”