Long, brisk walks may be better for our weight than sessions in the gym

For people trying to lose weight a brisk walk is more beneficial than a session at the gym, according to a study by researchers at the London School of Economics.

People who take part in high intensity exercise, such as cycling or rowing, were found to weigh more on average than those who take regular 30-minute walks. They also had higher BMIs and larger waistlines.

The findings, published in the journal Risk Analysis, were based on physical health records in the annual Health Survey for England, carried out between 1999 and 2012.

The researchers say that a public health campaign to promote the benefits of walking is needed. Dr Grace Lordan, the study’s lead researcher, said: ‘Given the obesity epidemic and the fact that a large proportion of people in the UK are inactive, recommending that people walk briskly more often is a cheap and easy policy option. Additionally, there is no monetary cost to walking so it is very likely that the benefits will outweigh the costs.’

Over 64 per cent of the adult population in Britain is overweight, and about a quarter of the population is clinically obese.

NHS guidelines say that adults should take part in 150 minutes of ‘moderate’ physical activity every week, but don’t advise on the merits of different types of exercise.

The BBC presenter Andrew Marr blamed a stroke he had in 2013 on vigorous exercise, having read advice which suggested that short bursts of intense activity were most beneficial for health.