ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – Lack of exercise may cause twice as many deaths as obesity, a new study finds.

Researchers out of the University of Cambridge in Britain found that as little as a 20-minute daily walk can help prevent heart attacks.

“Just a small amount of physical activity each day could have substantial health benefits for people who are physically inactive,” Ulf Ekelund, a professor at the University of Cambridge said in a statement obtained by The Oregonian.  “Physical activity has many proven health benefits and should be an important part of our daily lives.”

Over 334,000 men and women participated in the study.  Researchers followed the participants for over 12 years.  Researchers measured each participant’s height, weight, and waist.  They also asked each participant how much physical activity they had in their daily lives. Over the course of the study, 21,438 participants died.

Researchers analyzed the cause of death and found that the greatest reduction in risk of an early demise was found in people who were moderately active as compared to those who were not active at all.

The researchers also found that a 20-minute walk can help reduce the risk of a premature death by up to 30 percent.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States over the last 20 years and rates remain high.  More than one-third of U.S. adults and approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents have obesity.

The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Exercise.

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