A brisk 20-minute walk each day is all it takes to reduce the risk of dying prematurely, the findings suggest / PA

Researchers say a 20-minute daily walk can reduce our chances of early death

Physical inactivity is a cause of twice as many deaths as obesity, according to a major new study.

However, we can reduce our risk of early death simply by taking a 20 minute brisk walk each day, researchers from Cambridge University said.

In an analysis of several years of health data from more than 334,000 Europeans, researchers estimated that the risk of early death could be reduced by between 16 and 30 per cent by doing a small amount of moderate exercise daily.

An inactive lifestyle is a major risk factor for obesity, heart disease and cancer. However, its impact on our chances of an early death are believed to be independent of the effects of obesity, researchers said.

They calculated that while 337,000 of the 9.2 million deaths in Europe per year could be associated with obesity, 676,000 were attributable to inactivity.

Professor Ulf Ekelund, from the Medical Research Council’s epidemiology unit at Cambridge, who led the study, said that the findings carried a simple message.

“Just a small amount of physical activity each day could have substantial health benefits,” he said. “…Although we found that just 20 minutes would make a difference, we should really be looking to do more than this.”