Life expectancy levels would align with the best-performing countries in Europe if Scots were more active, according to a former Borders GP.
Dr Andrew Murray, who works closely with the Scottish Government as a physical activity ambassador, said people who were inactive could increase their own life expectancy by more than seven years if they started taking regular exercise.
The Edinburgh-based doctor said average life spans could jump from their current low levels to nearer those of countries where people consistently live up to five years longer.
His comments came ahead of the start to Scotland’s first Physical Activity Awareness Week, which aims to reduce inactivity and build on the legacy of events such as the Commonwealth Games to inspire people to take more exercise.
With physical inactivity estimated to kill 2,500 Scots a year and cost the NHS £91million annually, Dr Murray said now was the ideal time to educate people about the importance of being active.
He said: “2014 is a unique opportunity in Scotland, given that we have got the Commonwealth Games and these medal-winning athletes coming to Scotland, also the Ryder Cup.
“Although Scotland can’t have everyone in the population winning a gold medal, we can get the same benefits as the athletes do.
“It is a little-known fact that just by getting active 30 minutes five times a week or doing 30 minutes of walking five times a week, you actually live on average 7.2 years longer.
“It can actually increase national happiness. Those who are active are actually a lot happier and healthier.”
New figures have revealed that Scottish regions continue to come bottom in the UK for average life expectancy levels, as well as lagging behind other countries in Europe.
Dr Murray said: “The root causes of health problems in Scotland are not due to a lack of good doctors, nurses or medications. A lot of the difference in life expectancy is due to various lifestyle factors.
“It is well documented that Scots drink more than the European average. Perhaps our diet is less healthy and we are certainly much less active as a nation than the European average.
“If we turn these things around we will have the same life expectancy as the rest of Europe.