MIDDLE-AGED residents of Worcestershire are being urged to step up their activity levels and walking pace to help prevent cancer, heart disease and poor mental health.

New research shows that just 10 minutes of walking at a brisk pace each day and help general health and prevent serious conditions developing in later life.

According to Public Health England (PHE), the findings also show that more than 650, 000 adults in the West Midlands aged from 40 to 60 walk for less than 10 minutes continuously at a brisk pace each month.

This is in spite of the fact that physical inactivity among adults contributes to one in six deaths in the UK. It also costs the NHS nearly £1 billion every year.

In addition, PHE says people in the UK are 20 per cent less active now than they were in the 1960s and, on average, walk 15 miles less a year than they did 20 years ago with the sedentary nature of modern, busy lives makes it difficult for many to find the time for enough exercise to benefit their health.

PHE is now encouraging people, through its One You campaign, to build 10 minutes continuous brisk walking into their day as a simple way to improve their health. It is particularly aimed at those who are inactive, or have low activity levels, and may find it a challenge to become more active.

The research shows taking that 10-minute brisk walk everyday can help to reduce the risk of an early death by 15 per cent.

The UK’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies recommends people take 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week as this can lead to a 40 per cent reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes, a 35 per cent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, a 30 per cent reduction in the risk of dementia and a 20 per cent reduction in the risk of some cancers.

As part of the One You campaign, people can now download the Active 10 app to show how much brisk walking they do each day and how to incorporate more of it into their lifestyles.

As the public health body for the county, Worcestershire County Council is encouraging local people to take up the challenge of including a brisk walk into their daily lives.

And the cabinet member for health and well-being Councillor John Smith is setting an example and signing up to the campaign himself.

He said: "We want everyone in Worcestershire to be healthier, live longer, have a better quality of life and remain independent for as long as possible.

“I am signing up to Active10 this summer. I know that regular exercise will improve my health and I want other people in the county to join me. It's just 10 minutes of exercise a day. We can all find time for that within our busy lives."

The council said apart from helping to prevent a number of health conditions developing, the exercise can boost energy levels, help people with lower back pain and those who are at risk of high blood pressure.

It added that across the country a total of 50,000 people have already downloaded the Active 10 app. Hundreds of Worcestershire people are expected to join the campaign between now and the end of September.

It is hoped that major events in September such as the Worcester City 10k and the Tour of Britain cycle race will inspire more people to take up the challenge and to download the Active10 app.

Dr Lola Abudu, director of Health and Wellbeing at PHE West Midlands, said: “Physical activity is a vital part of remaining healthy, and inactivity among adults contributes to one in six deaths in the UK, the same as smoking.

“We know that taking at least one 10-minute brisk walk a day can reduce the risk of early death by 15 per cent, while a good level of activity each week can provide a multitude of health benefits.

“You don’t have to start an expensive fitness programme to get the benefits of exercise, just a 10-minute brisk walk will make a positive difference.

“Whether you’re walking to work, stepping out at lunch time, nipping to the shops or taking the dog for a walk at the local park, there are lots of ways you can get active for 10 minutes.

“Our new Active 10 app is the first free app to show you when you are walking fast enough and long enough to get health benefits. It also shows how much brisk walking you’re doing, where you can increase your pace and fit more activity into your day and it sets goals and provides tips to keep you going.”

The free app combines walking intensity and time, rather than just distance or steps and is the first of its kind. It helps people gradually introduce more activity into their daily routine, with goal setting advice and motivational tips. It has already helped 50,000 adults become more active.

Dr Zoe Williams, GP and Clinical Champion for Physical Activity and Lifestyle at the Royal College of GPs, said: “As GPs we’re best placed to talk to people about how their lifestyles affect their health.

“Every GP should talk to their patients about the benefits of brisk walking and recommend the Active 10 app. It’s the first free app of its kind and an easy, accessible way to make brisk walking a daily habit.”

Professor Sir Muir Gray, Clinical Adviser for the Active 10 app and the One You campaign, said: “Many digital products tell us to aim for 10,000 steps a day, which is a good recommendation but may seem unachievable to many people tied to the desk, screen or steering wheel for eight hours a day.

“It’s important to consider both distance and intensity of walking to get the heart pumping in order to improve health. Walking briskly for 10 minutes each day benefits inactive adults the most, which is why the Active 10 app fits millions of people’s needs so well.”

• The Active 10 app can be downloaded from iTunes app store for iOS and Google Play store for Androids. People can also find further hints and tips on the One You website nhs.uk/oneyou

• A new study conducted for Ladbrokes shows Worcester is the third most active city in the country with residents exercising 10 days every month. While people in some areas prefer cycling or jogging, the study showed Worcester residents concentrate on strength with 23 per cent doing weight training as their main form of exercise. Gloucester came bottom of the table with residents saying they exercise during just five days each month.