An early death can be avoided if you take more steps per day

By Rachael Schultz
Updated: May 01, 2015
Corbis Images

Most of us know by now that eating healthy and staying active are crucial to living a long life. But how much you move may actually be the most important factor: There are twice as many deaths due to lack of exercise than to obesity, a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows. (Check out 10 Sneaky Ways to Fit a Workout into Your Day.)

Researchers found that while physical inactivity does contribute to an increased BMI and obesity, it also ups your risk of deadly diseases such as heart disease and cancer, giving it a stronger influence on your lifespan than obesity alone.Luckily, the researchers also say that squeezing in just 20 minutes of brisk walking a day can lower your risk of an early death by up to 30 percent-phew!

That sounds easy enough, but how many of us are actually racking up this many sweat-breaking minutes a day? (And Is Walking as Good a Workout as Running?)

Well, if you have a FitBit or Jawbone, you know you should be aiming for 10,000 steps a day. But the average American actually only takes 5,117 steps per day, according to a study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise-and that includes everything from leisurely walking to full-blown runs. (Are You Moving Enough?)

The good news? That number is hopefully growing: More than 145 million adults now include walking as part of a physically active lifestyle, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And you don't actually have to shoot for 10,000 steps a day to avoid the pitfalls of sedentary life: This study's 20 minutes aligns with the CDC's recommendation of at least 150 minutes of moderate movement a week for adults to stay healthy and live longer. Strapped for time? Try the Workouts of the World's Busiest Women. Now you've got no excuse!

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