Public Health England (PHE) and the Royal College of GPs said focusing on time, rather than distance or quantity of steps, can reduce the risk of early death by up to 15%.
One in five middle-aged adults are said to be physically inactive, meaning they do less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week.
A PHE poll of more than 3,000 adults found the main reason people give is “not having time” (31%), followed by not feeling motivated (27%) and being too tired (25%).
The official recommendation is for adults to carry out at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week.
This has been linked to health benefits including a lowered risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
Half of the adults questioned in the PHE poll thought more than 240 minutes of exercise a week is required to see general health benefits.
One in seven (15%) thought more than 420 minutes a week is needed, amounting to an hour a day.
The majority (87%) said they already walk more than 10 minutes a day, although only just over half (54%) said they walk briskly for this amount of time.
PHE has created the Active 10 app, which measures a walker’s intensity and time, rather than just distance.
Professor Sir Muir Gray, clinical adviser for the app, said: “The additional health benefits that can be achieved by walking at a brisk pace for periods of 10 minutes or more – as opposed to totting up a certain number of steps throughout the day – are undeniable.
“I’d advise anyone of any age and activity level to start to fit in at least one 10-minute brisk walk a day as a simple way to get more active, especially those who may be taking medication for a long-term health condition – you will receive even more benefits from walking briskly for 10 minutes or more a day.”
PHE medical director Professor Paul Cosford said: “Managing all the pressures of everyday life can mean that exercise takes a back seat, but building a brisk walk into your daily routine is a simple way to get more active.
“The Active 10 app gives you a clear picture of the intensity of your walk.
“Taking a brisk 10-minute walk each day will get your heart pumping, improve your mood and lower the risk of serious health issues like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.”
Apps that have set users step targets rather than time have been criticised by a leading computer scientist.
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Step counting apps could be driving people to chase over-ambitious goals, according to Dr Greg Hager, from Johns Hopkins University in the US.
He said “very few” of the estimated 165,000 available healthcare apps are based on scientific evidence.