Efforts to get the public fit and avert a health timebomb caused by obesity and lack of exercise were stepped up by the Government today.

Efforts to get the public fit and avert a health timebomb caused by obesity and lack of exercise were stepped up by the Government today.

The Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson was launching a report on physical activity in a bid to encourage people to exercise at least five times a week.

It will promote simple measures such as everyday household chores including mowing the lawn, vacuuming and gardening alongside more rigorous sporting activities.

The Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell was also boosting efforts to get Britain moving today by kicking off the "Summer of Sport" campaign.

She was due to publish a progress report on sport and physical activity in this country.

Sir Liam's report - At Least Five A Week: Evidence on the impact of physical activity and its relationship to health - will set out goals on the amount of exercise everybody should be taking.

He will emphasise that regular exercise is essential to people's health, protecting against heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

The report will say that adults should aim for 30 minutes of at least moderate activity every day.

This would not necessarily involve hours in the gym and could be broken down into 10 minutes of brisk walking three times a day, cycling to work or school, using stairs instead of the lift and getting off the bus one stop early.

Sir Liam wants to encourage people to build physical activity into their everyday lives.

This includes getting children into good habits early in life so they can avoid health problems later on.

The report will say that people who are physically active reduce their risk of developing major chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke by up to half and the risk of early death by about 20-30%.

Doctors are worried that the obesity epidemic which has emerged in recent years could overburden the NHS in the future, leading to numerous diseases and early death.

Health experts have warned that, if current trends continued, at least a third of adults in Britain would be obese by 2020 - at the moment the figure stands at one in five.

More than half of the UK is either overweight or obese - in 2002 the figures stood at 70% of men and 63% of women.

Obesity in adult women nearly trebled between 1980 and 2002 from 8% to 23%.

The picture for men is even more bleak - obesity nearly quadrupled over the same period from 6% to 22%.

The situation is not much better for children - among those aged two to four obesity almost doubled between 1989 and 1998, from 5% to 9%.

Among those aged six to 15, rates trebled from 5% in 1990 to 16% in 2001.

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