Updated: Jul 20, 2019
We all know that sitting is the new smoking but unless workplaces come on board with stand-up desks and walk breaks etc then we’re stuck at the desk sitting on our butts. Every 20 minutes you should stand up and move around but that may not be an option at times so what do we do? Walk to and from work (or get off the bus/train earlier and walk), walk when you get home or, if it’s too dark, join a gym, get a walking group happening or buy a treadmill.
We’re very good at excuses and we’re lazy when it comes to our health but as we get older there is nothing more important than maintaining movement in our lives and eating well. Not only is it good for your gut to have movement but it’s good for your entire body as well. So if we know all this why aren’t we doing it! Harvard recently put out a report on the 5 major benefits of walking that you may find interesting.
1. It counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes.
Recent research from Harvard looked at the effects of walking on 32 genes that are thought to promote obesity in 12,000 people. The results found that of these 12,000 people, who walked briskly for around an hour/day, the risk of getting obese was halved! An hour a day may be a lot to start with for some so it’s best to build up and see how far you can go.
2. It helps tame a sweet tooth.
Another study looked at the cravings for sweets and why we eat sweet things like chocolate when we get stressed. We all know that chocolate makes us feel good when we are stressed but if you go for a 15 min walk instead your cravings are reduced and so is your intake of sugary ‘showtime’ foods.
Another area where this works is for those who are trying to give up smoking, shopping or any other habit really. Taking your mind off the thing that you are craving is the best way to avoid it and why not try walking instead.
3. It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer.
We already know that all kinds of exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer but another study found that those women who walked up to 7 hours/week had a 14% lower chance of breast cancer than those who only did a few hours/week. The upside to this of course is also weight control and the reduction of other chronic disease factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels. This amount of walking was even seen to protect those who were obese and were heading towards chronic disease in this study. It’s a win win!
4. It eases joint pain.
Weight loss will automatically ease joint pain but so will remaining flexible and in motion. Our bodies are machines when you think about it and they need to move to maintain their lubrication and range of movement. Studies have shown that walking also reduces arthritic-related pain and if you walk 8-10 kms a week you can even prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. Walking actually protects your joints and by maintaining the muscle strength around your joints you may be able to protect yourself from further injury as you age.
5. It boosts immune function.
Exercise and eating well can boost your immune system and can also help protect you from getting colds and flu. A study looking at the amount of exercise and sickness found that those who walked at least 20mins/day at least 5 times/week had 43% fewer sick days than those who only exercised once/week or less. If those who did walk more got sick the study found that the duration was much shorter and symptoms milder.
Encourage your mates or your family to get out and have a walk everyday or get yourself a dog so you have to walk every day! I could go on forever about the benefits of having a four-legged furry friend but that’s for another day 😊.
To learn more and to find easy ways to incorporate a walk into your daily routine, read Walking for Health, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School. The link is below.
(Images sourced from Creative Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Man_Walking_Cartoon_Vector.svg; https://www.flickr.com/photos/liveoncelivewild/32724395475)