Nearly two thirds of adults do not meet physical activity guidelines
The majority of adults are not physically active enough, meaning that they face an increased risk of cancer and other serious illnesses, according to a new survey by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP).
A survey of 2,084 UK adults, conducted by Opinium Research on behalf of the society, found that 63 per cent did not do the recommended weekly amount of physical activity.
While over two fifths - 41 per cent - said that they would exercise more if it lengthened their lifespan or gave them a healthier life, and 52 per cent said they would exercise to lose weight, the actions of many did not reflect their words.
One in five respondents admitted that they exercised just once a month or less.
Lack of physical activity can have serious consequences, including a higher risk of cancer, obesity, heart disease, type-2 diabetes and stroke.
Cancer Research UK estimates that as many as 3,000 cases of cancer each year in the UK could be prevented if people kept more active.
Commenting on the survey, which was published to launch the CSP's new 'Move for Health' campaign, health secretary Andy Burnham said: "Making just small increases in your activity levels can make a big difference to your overall long-term health.
"Active people are up to 50 per cent less likely to be at risk of major chronic disease such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. But not enough of us do the recommended 30 minutes, five days a week."
The research also found that many Britons are unsure of the recommended guidelines for physical activity - at least 30 minutes, five days per week for adults.
Just 13 per cent of respondents knew these guidelines and 56 per cent thought they recommended less activity than they actually do.
Many - 35 per cent - claimed to be too busy with work to be more active, while 25 per cent claimed they were too tired or unwell.
However, 53 per cent insisted that they would be more active if they could find the time and 39 per cent thought they would be more active if exercise were free.
Bridget Hurley, chartered physiotherapist and spokeswoman for the CSP, said: "Most people know physical activity is good for their health but when it comes to doing it, exercise simply isn't a priority.
"Regular physical activity is as important as eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and people need to understand that you can't keep putting it off. Without sufficient physical activity you increase your risk of life-threatening illnesses."
Ms Hurley also pointed out: "Exercise doesn't need to be expensive, boring or time-consuming. Just going outside at lunchtime for a half-hour walk every day will greatly increase your fitness levels."
Dr Laura Bell, Cancer Research UK's science information officer, said: "We know that being physically active reduces the risk of breast and bowel cancer, and that the more active you are, the more you can reduce your cancer risk. Aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate activity a day, five days a week.
"This means something that makes you feel warm or slightly out of breath like brisk walking, gardening or housework. Research tells us that around half of all cancers could be prevented by changes to lifestyle."