Today’s columnist, Dr Mary Wren: Give a bit of exercise a try

Women exercising in a fitness center
Women exercising in a fitness center
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We have spent many years focusing on encouraging and helping people to lose weight, because we know obesity can result in serious illness, such as diabetes or heart disease.

However, a study has shown that maybe we should also have been concentrating on encouraging exercise.

A lack of exercise could be killing twice as many people as obesity in Europe, a 12-year study of more than 300,000 people suggests.

It is known that obese people who exercise are more healthy than those who don’t and thinner people who don’t exercise have more health problems than those who do. So exercise really matters.

The British Heart Foundation have said that 44 per cent of adults in the UK are not doing any moderate exercise, with concerns this will affect long-term health.

Interestingly, in Holland only 14 per cent do not exercise. From our frequent trips there I have noticed that Dutch people are slimmer and fitter, probably to a large extent because of the culture of cycling. We can easily slip into inactivity just because everyone else is.

The BBC reported that analysis of 5,700 elderly men in Norway showed those doing three hours of exercise a week lived around five years longer than the sedentary. Even if the men did not start exercising until the age of 73, they still had a five-year benefit. This suggests that exercising is as beneficial as stopping smoking in reducing deaths.

There are lots of other benefits to exercise too –support for joints with pain reduction, stronger bones, lower blood pressure, as well as an improvement in depression, anxiety and general sense of well-being.

Moderate exercise could be brisk walking, cycling or swimming. It is good to find something you can enjoy doing – zumba or aerobics are popular.

Just 20-30 minutes of brisk walking five times a week makes a big difference-and in Sheffield we have the challenge of hills too.

There is lots of help available in Sheffield. The Sheffield Help Yourself Guide is available at Sheffield Help Yourself and gives information about a huge range of physical activities. Then there is the Sheffield IAPT website at Sheffield NHS which has information on free exercise resources. Then Activity Sheffield aim to get more people more active, more often and they have details of events at

Have a look and give it a go.

* Dr Mary Wren, Sheffield GP