A stark report published in The Lancet today suggests that physical inactivity is a greater risk to public health than smoking.

Exercise can no longer be viewed as personal choice, state the paper's authors.

According to their research, 5.3m people die from a lack of exercise each year, in comparison to 5.1m from smoking.

Scroll down for easy ways to raise your activity levels (PICTURES)

The report found that a failure to spend between 15 to 30 minutes each day doing brisk exercise could increase your risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes by a third, while decreasing life expectancy by up to five years.

In the same study, The Lancet noted that Brits have become one of the most sedentary populations on earth, with almost twice the proportion of people defined as "inactive" as in neighbouring France.

lack exercise dangerous smoking

The report criticised the approach by doctors and health professionals to tackle this chronic problem.

"Physical activity burdens society through the hidden and growing cost of medical care and loss of productivity," states the report.

"This passive attitude towards inactivity is anachronistic and reminiscent of the battles still being fought over smoking."

Public Health Minister Anne Milton told Huffpost Lifestyle: "Being active can help protect against heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer which is why we encourage people to undertake at least 150 minutes of activity per week."

"Through our School Games programme we are encouraging all children and young people to take part in sports and this summer's Change4Life focuses on getting families off the sofa and getting active with personalised activity plans available for everyone."

Earlier this year, the Government launched Games4Life to inspire the nation to get active during this year’s summer of sport.

Milton continued: "We are also investing £30 million in the first ever National Sport and Exercise Medicine Centre of Excellence that will focus NHS expertise on getting everyone to stay active."

Department of Health guidelines recommend that:

  • Children aged five to 18 should have 60 active minutes a day
  • Adults should have 150 active minutes a week.
  • Younger children aged two to four are recommended to get 180 minutes a day

Run out of steam when it comes to exercise? Huffpost Lifestyle asked Games4life for a few tricks on how to keep more active. Or for a free personalised activity plan with tips and ideas to help you reach 150 minutes, just visit Games4Life.

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  • On your marks, get set, shop

    Why not walk to the supermarket? Carrying heavy bags might make you puff, but you'll work up an appetite while working out those arms. Or if you take the bus, hop off one stop early and let your legs do the work.

  • Work out at work

    Ever feel chained to your desk? Swap the stairs for the lift, take a quick walk at lunchtime and speak to colleagues instead of sending emails. You'll feel fitter and the day will go faster.

  • Press ups in the park

    If a regular gym's not your thing, make a beeline for the park. Outdoor gyms are popping up all over the country, with free equipment that'll help stretch, strengthen and tone your muscles. Loved playgrounds as a kid? Then this is for you. <a href="http://www.tgogc.com" target="_hplink">Click here for more information</a>.

  • Take the kids out

    Kids can help bring out your own inner child so get outside and find your playful side. Think back to games you used to play and teach them how.

  • Exploring your surroundings

    We all know walking is good for us but might not think about just going for a walk where we live. You might be surprised how many walks there are in your area. This weekend find your local walk by going to <a href="http://www.walk4life.info/" target="_hplink">Walk4Life online</a> and just put in your postcode.

  • Embrace the sporting fever

    This summer we are surrounded by sport and it's the perfect opportunity to try out something new. Search your local government website to find out what activities or taster sessions are happening near you. From free running clubs to yoga in the park there's something to suit everyone - you just need to get involved.

  • Make a splash

    Whether it's lengths of the pool or splashing around with friends or family, why not take a trip to the pool? Get a friend to join you - it's much more social and you can reward yourself with a catch-up after.

  • Active housework

    Household chores can get you heart pumping and the quicker they are done the better. Hoovering and dusting can be quite a workout and by just taking 10 minutes each day you'll be helping to reach your activity target and feeling better about your home.

  • Planning ahead

    With busy lives it can be difficult to find time for exercise, even just ten minutes to get your heart rate up. At the start of the week think about when you can fit some time in to be a bit more active and then stick to it.

  • Dancing in front of the mirror

    There is no doubt that dancing is a great way to let off steam. It can be in a class with others, or in front of the TV or to the radio. All you need is a great tune. If you've got kids you can challenge them to come up with a routine to a song and let them teach it to you.