Brisk walking beats other vigorous activities in reducing weight, says a London School of Economics (LSE) study recommending that the government adopt a policy of 'every step counts'. The results were especially effective for women and those over 50.

Men and women who regularly walked briskly for more than 30 minutes were seen to have lower BMIs and smaller waists than those engaged in other modes of exercise. Dr Grace Lordan, who led the research, examined physical activity levels from the annual Health Survey for England (HSE) from 1999 to 2012. She focused on various activities that led to increased heartbeats and perspiration.

These included brisk walk, swimming, cycling, dancing, running, gym workouts, manual activities like scrubbing floors and chopping wood. The article will be published in the journal Risk Analysis.

The government recommends 150 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity every week, but there is no guidance as to which activity is the most effective, says the LSE. With 80% of the UK population not meeting these targets, the NHS bears almost £1bn a year in treating the fallout of obesity.

The option of walking is also a cheap one, besides aiding mental and physical health. An American study last year had concluded that running as little as five minutes daily has the same health effects of walking or running for longer. The US government recommends 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week for good health.