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Following the publication of the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) report Counting Calories: How under-reporting can explain the apparent fall in calorie intake, ukactive Executive Director Steven Ward has reiterated the primary importance of regular physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle.

The report suggested that higher-than-reported calorie consumption was the cause for rising levels of obesity and said that tackling physical inactivity should not become a distraction from cutting public calorie intake.

However, the report conceded that Britons do consume fewer calories now than they did in the 1970s – when obesity levels started to increase – coinciding with a significant drop in physical activity. Critics also pointed out that the report highlighted human tendencies of under-reporting calorie consumption to support its key points, without allowing for the established fact that humans also tend to over-report their levels of physical activity.

“Unfortunately, there is a lot of misunderstanding around the topics of obesity and physical inactivity, with the two separate issues often wrongly conflated,” Ward told Health Club Management.

“We, and a growing number of the world’s leading health academics, have always been clear that obesity and physical inactivity are two distinct public health concerns of equal importance, which we must tackle by leading healthier lifestyles.

“Physical inactivity is a top-level health concern in its own right and the benefits of exercise cannot even begin to be measured by looking solely at waistlines. Physical activity has been hailed by doctors as a miracle cure which can help to treat and prevent more than 20 lifestyle-related diseases including cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

“Research from Cambridge University shows there are currently twice as many Europeans dying from physical inactivity as there are from obesity, while the recent study in The Lancet showed inactivity causes more deaths globally than smoking.

“We should follow the lead of NHS chief executive Simon Stevens, who is currently implementing an integrated workforce wellness programme for NHS staff which seeks to tackle inactivity through a range of exercise initiatives and overcome obesity by offering healthier food options.”