potato culture' was issued today by the government's top medical
published a new landmark report on physical activity and health - 'At
Least Five A Week.'
Smoking and unhealthy diet have long been established as major causal
factors for chronic disease but the report says that inactive living
is equally important.
Sir Liam said: 'People need to stay active over the whole of their
lives if they are to stave off the threat of obesity and killer
diseases like cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and cancer.
'We are moving less than our parents and grandparents. This is a
major risk factor for the nation's health. We need to combat the
'couch potato' culture, and this means building moderate everyday
physical activity into our lives.
'It is not about spending hours and hours in the gym, but it is about
finding ways to build activities into our daily lives.'
For general health benefit, adults should achieve a total of at least
30 minutes a day of at least moderate intensity physical activity, on
5 or more days of the week.
This report will be considered by ministers when they draw up the
forthcoming White Paper on Public Health, following the public
consultation exercise, currently under way.
John Reid, Health Secretary, said: 'This is a excellent report which
clearly sets out the importance of a more active lifestyle. The
challenge for all of us; government, business, the voluntary sector
and individuals themselves, is how we achieve that.'
Sir Liam said the recommended levels of activity could be achieved
either by doing all the daily activity in one session or through
shorter bouts of activity of 10 minutes or more.
For example, an adult may take a daily brisk walk or cycle to work
and children could be encouraged to walk to school, in addition to
two or three weekly leisure activities such as swimming, football, or
gym. All activity can help prevent obesity, so people should make
the most of all small opportunities to be active such as using stairs
and doing the gardening.
The report highlights that:
* up to two-thirds of men and three quarters of women don't take
enough physical activity for a health benefit;
* a quarter of adults and six per cent of 2-20 year olds are obese;
* the cost of inactivity - direct costs of treatment and indirect
costs caused through ickness absence - is an estimated£8.2bn
Sir Liam added: 'Adults who are physically active reduce their risk
of developing major chronic diseases, such as heart disease and
stroke and type 2 diabetes, by up to half (50%), and the risk of
early death by about 20-30%. This report must be the wake-up call
that changes attitudes to active lifestyles in every household.'
The report analyses evidence from around the world of the impact that
an inactive lifestyle has on public health.
It concludes that obesity is now reaching epidemic proportions and
show little signs of slowing. If current obesity rates continue, a
third of all adults will be obese by 2010 - equal to US levels.
1. The Chief Medical Officer's report, At Least Five A Week,:
Evidence on the impact of physical activity and its relationship to
health is available here.
2. The report's recommendations for physical activity to maintain a
healthy lifestyle are:
* Children and young people should achieve a total of at least 60
minutes of at least moderate intensity physical activity each day. At
least twice a week this should include activities to improve bone
health (activities that produce high physical stresses on the bones),
muscle strength and flexibility.
* for general health benefit , adults should achieve a total of at
least 30 minutes a day of at least moderate intensity physical
activity on 5 or more days of the week.
It is likely that for many people, 45-60 minutes of moderate
intensity physical activity a day is necessary to prevent obesity.
The report also makes more specific recommendations for adults for
the beneficial effects for individual diseases and conditions.
Moderate physical activity will usually mean:
* an increase in breathing rate;
* an increase in heart rate, to the level when the pulse can be felt;
* a feeling of increased warmth, possibly accompanied by sweating on
hot or humid days.