Public Health Englands research suggests large numbers of adults do not walk for 10 minutes at a time once a month
About 6 million middle-aged people in England are endangering their health by not taking so much as a brisk walk once a month, government advisers have said.
Clinicians said such a lack of exercise increases an individuals risk of prematurely developing serious health conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia and cancer.
Public Health England (PHE) said 41% of the 15.3 million English adults aged 40 to 60 walk less than 10 minutes continuously each month at a brisk pace of at least 3mph.
PHE has launched a health campaign targeting the sedentary middle-aged by encouraging them to walk to the shop instead of using a car and to take up walking on lunch breaks to add many healthy years to their lives.
Health leaders believe that 10 minutes walking a day is likely to be seen as achievable by people who are chronically inactive and that the health benefits include increased fitness, improved mood, a healthier body weight and a 15% reduction in the risk of dying prematurely.
PHE said walking required no skill, facilities or equipment and was more accessible and acceptable than other forms of physical activity for most people. Guidance issued by the UKs four chief medical officers in 2011 instructed the British population on how much exercise they should be participating in each week.
They said that adults should do at least two and a half hours of moderately intensive activity a week.
The PHE report said a quarter of the English population are inactive, doing less than 30 minutes of exercise a week. For some of these individuals 150 minutes may seem an unrealistic aim, according to the PHE report.
PHEs One You campaign is urging those people to take up the challenge of walking briskly for 10 minutes a day. As part of the drive it has released the Active 10 app which will help users achieve the goal and GPs will be recommending it to their patients to help build up their activity levels.
Dr Jenny Harries, the deputy medical director of 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 10-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.
Prof Sir Muir Gray, a clinical adviser for the Active 10 app and the One You campaign, added: We all know physical activity is good for your health but for the first time were 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%.
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.