Report by Richard Morgan
RA lack of exercise is twice as likely to kill people than obesity, research from a 12-year study suggests.
Low physical activity was thought to be responsible for 676,000 of the 9.2 million deaths in Europe in 2008 - almost double the 337,000 that died from being overweight.
Getting people to do a brisk 20-minute walk each day would improve health substantially, University of Cambridge researchers said.
People who engaged in moderate levels of exercise were 16% to 30% less likely to die than those classed as inactive.
Researchers said avoiding inactivity helped reduce the risk of death by 7.35%, compared to 3.66% by cutting obesity.
The findings come after scientists studied the effects of obesity and exercise on 334,161 men and women across Europe.
"This is a simple message: just a small amount of physical activity each day could have substantial health benefits for people who are physically inactive," study leader Professor Ulf Ekelund from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at Cambridge University, said.
June Davison, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said the findings were a "clear reminder" that being physically active can reduce the risk of heart disease.
"The research suggests that just a modest increase in physical activity can have health benefits.
"Adults should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week, carrying it out in sessions of 10 minutes or more.
"Whether it's going for a walk, taking a bike ride or using the stairs instead of the lift, keeping active every day will help reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease."