Over 560,000 adults aged 40–60 in the South West do not achieve ten minutes of continuous brisk walking over the course of a month and are missing out on health benefits, according to according to evidence reviewed by Public Health England (PHE).
The findings also reveal how lifestyles have changed over time, showing that people in the UK are 20 per cent less active now than they were in the 1960s and on average walk 15 miles less a year than two decades ago. The sedentary nature of modern, busy lives makes it difficult for many to find the time for enough exercise to benefit their health.
PHE’s new One You physical activity campaign is encouraging adults to build 10 minutes continuous brisk walking into their day as a simple way to improve their health. This is particularly aimed at those who have an inactive or low activity lifestyle and may find incorporating activity into their day challenging. The ‘Active 10’ app has been developed to show how much brisk walking a person is doing each day and how to incorporate more of it into their lifestyles.
Taking at least one brisk ten minute walk a day has been shown to reduce the risk of early death by 15 per cent. A ten minute walk can contribute to meeting the CMO’s physical activity guidance of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week.  This can lead to health benefits including a lowered risk of type 2 diabetes (by 40 per cent), cardiovascular disease (by 35 per cent), dementia (by 30 per cent) and some cancers (by 20 per cent).
The severity of the current physical inactivity epidemic amongst adults contributes to one in six deaths in the UK and is costing the NHS over £0.9 billion per year.
Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Medical Director at PHE, said: “I know first hand that juggling the priorities of everyday life often means exercise takes a back seat. Walking to the shops instead of driving or going for a brisk ten minute walk on your lunch break each day can add many healthy years to your life. The Active 10 app is a free and easy way to help anyone build more brisk walking into their daily routine.”
Dr Amelia Randle, GP in Shepton Mallet, Somerset and Clinical Champion for physical activity in PHE, said: “We know that by looking after yourself and keeping active in middle age you significantly reduce the risk of getting a major disease such as diabetes, cardiovascular or dementia in later life.
“I want to speak to the 37 percent of people in the South West who walk less than ten minutes a month and urge them to start walking. Walk to the shops instead of driving or go for a brisk ten minute walk on your lunch break.
“The Active 10 app is free and easy to use and helps you understand the speed you need to walk to get real health benefits. By walking briskly for just 10 minutes a day you will see a real health impact”.
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 activiy into their daily routine, with goal setting advice and motivational tips. It has already helped 50,000 adults get more active.
Professor Sir Muir Gray, Clinical Adviser for the Active 10 app and the One You campaign, said: “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 per cent. 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”
Dr Zoe Williams, GP and Clinical Champion for Physical Activity and Lifestyle at the RCGP, said: “As GPs we’re best placed to talk to people about how their lifestyles affect their health. Every GP should talk to their patients about the benefits of brisk walking and recommend the Active 10 app. It’s the first free app of its kind and an easy, accessible way to make brisk walking a daily habit.”
The Active 10 app was developed by Public Health England in collaboration with The University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University and the National Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine.
Search ‘Active 10’ to download the free app which shows how much brisk walking you are currently doing and provides tips and encouragement on how to fit ten minute bursts of brisk walking into your daily routine.
 To stay healthy, the Chief Medical Officer advises adults aged 19-64 to do 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week. This should consist of a mix of aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking, and strengthening exercises on at least two days a week.