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WALKING - LIFESPAN

How walking can increase your lifespan

Doris Obinna

A 2007 study of inactive women found that even a low level of exercise around 75 minutes per week improved their fitness levels significantly, when compared to a non-exercising group. However, physical activity does not have to be vigorous or done for long period in order to improve your health.

Walking is low impact, requires minimal equipment, can be done at any time of day and can be performed at your own pace. You can get out and walk without worrying about the risks associated with some more vigorous forms of exercise.

Walking is also a great form of physical activity for people who are overweight, elderly or who haven’t exercised in a long time. Walking for fun and fitness isn’t limited to strolling by yourself around local neighbourhood streets. There are various clubs, venues and strategies you can use to make walking an enjoyable and social part of your lifestyle.

Brisk walking is great exercise, and like other endurance exercise, it can increase your heart rate and breathing. Endurance exercises keep you healthy, improve your fitness, and help you do the tasks you need to do every day.

For some, walking for the recommended 30 minutes a day might be difficult. If so, try walking for 10 minutes at a time and build up to three times a day. As your endurance improves, walk longer until you can advance to a single 30-minute walk. As your walk becomes easier, add new challenges, such as climbing a hill, extending the time you walk, increasing your walking pace, or adding an additional day of walking. Step counters can help you keep track of your walking, set goals, and measure your progress.

Study shows that most inactive people get fewer than 5,000 steps a day, and some very inactive people get only 2,000 steps a day. Try wearing a step counter for a few days to see how you’re doing.

An osteopathic physician, Dr. Joseph Mercola, said: “If you want to add seven years to your lifespan, set aside 20 to 25 minutes for a daily walk. This simple habit, which can also, arguably, be one of the most enjoyable parts of your day, has been found to trigger an anti-aging process and even help repair old DNA.”

A research presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress, revealed that those who engaged in daily moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk or jog, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training experience anti- aging benefits that could add an additional three to seven years to your life.

Dr. Mercola “The researchers recommended a 20-minute daily walk to reap these benefits, but while I agree a daily walk is a phenomenal health tool, I don’t view it as a form of exercise. It’s an essential movement that we all require – and you likely need more than 20 minutes of it a day in addition to a regular exercise program.”

According to experts, regular brisk walking can help you maintain a healthy weight. It can prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. It also strengthens your bones and muscles, improve your mood and improve your balance and coordination.

To get the health benefits, try to walk for at least 30 minutes as briskly as you can on most days of the week. ‘Brisk’ means that you can still talk but not sing, and you may be puffing slightly. Moderate activities, such as walking pose little health risk but, if you have a medical condition, check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program of physical activity.

Make walking part of your routine

Try to make walking a routine for example. Try to walk at the same time each day. Remember, you use the same amount of energy, no matter what time of day you walk, so do what is most convenient for you. You may find that asking someone to walk with you will help make it a regular activity. Some people find that keeping an activity diary or log also makes it easier.

Part of what makes walking so beneficial is that when you are walking you can’t be sitting. Sitting for more than eight hours a day is associated with a 90 per cent increased risk of type 2 diabetes, along with increased risks of heart disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality.

The average American actually spends nine to 10 hours of their day sitting, and certain occupations, such as telecommunications employees, spend an average of 12 hours sitting each day.

For many years, exercise was promoted as the solution to this largely sedentary lifestyle, but research suggests it can’t counteract the effects of too much sitting. The more you move around and get up out of your chair, the better, and walking is part of this.

How far should one walk daily?

Taking 10,000 daily steps means you’ve walked about five miles or nine kilometers. Many people do not get close to reaching this goal, which is why fitness trackers can be so useful. According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), the average person only walks between 3,000 and 4,000 steps per day.

 Walking is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health. Just 30 minutes every day can increase cardivascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance. It can also reduce your risk of developing conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers. Unlike some other forms of exercise, walking is free and doesn’t require any special equipment or training.

Health benefits of walking

Loosing belly fat: Brisk walking is a low-impact moderately intense cardiovascular activity. According
to NutriStrategy, if you weigh 155 pounds, a 30-minute brisk walk at 3.5 mph will burn 134 calories. If you weigh 180 pounds, you will burn 156 calories.

Building physical activity into your life: If it is too difficult to walk for 30 minutes at one time, do regular small bouts (10 minutes) three times per day and gradually build up to longer sessions. However, if your goal is to lose weight, you will need to do physical activity for longer than 30 minutes each day. You can still achieve this by starting with smaller bouts of activity throughout the day and increasing these as your fitness improves. Physical activity built into a daily lifestyle plan is also one of the most effective ways to assist with weight loss and keep weight off once it’s lost.

Slow down aging process: Walking may help to slow down the aging process, and it works no matter what age you get started. Sanjay Sharma, a professor of inherited cardiac diseases in sports cardiology at St. George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation , said: “We may never avoid becoming completely old, but we may delay the time we become old. We may look younger when we’re 70 and may live into our nineties. Exercise buys you three to seven additional years of life. It is an antidepressant, it improves cognitive function, and there is now evidence that it may retard the onset of dementia.”

Research even shows getting up and walking around for two minutes out of every hour can increase your lifespan by 33 per cent, compared to those who do not. According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), the average person only walks between 3, 000 and 4,000 steps per day, but aiming for 10,000 steps is a better goal.

Slash your risk of heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and more: One study found that walking for two miles a day or more can cut your chances of hospitalisation from a severe episode of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by about half.

Another study found that daily walking reduced the risk of stroke in men over the age of 60. Walking for at least an hour or two could cut a man’s stroke risk by as much as one-third, and it do not matter how brisk the pace is.

Taking a three-hour long walk each day slashes the risk by two-thirds. Walking has additional benefits as well, including to your mood. Walking triggers your body to release natural pain-killing endorphins, and the more steps people take during a day, the better their mood tends to be.

Walking is even known to improve sleep, support your joint health, improve circulation, and reduce the incidence of disability in those over 65.

It strengthens memory: According to a 2011 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, elderly people, who walked for 40 minutes three times a week for a year experienced a two per cent average increase in size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory and emotion. Those who did stretching exercises instead see their hippocampi decline in volume by 1.4 per cent on average.

It protects you from heart diseaseAny activity that gradually gets your heart rate up is good for your cardiovascular health, and this is exactly what happens when you run or walk fast. But if that’s not your speed, there’s another option: walking longer.

In a 2013 study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, both daily runners and walkers lowered their blood pressure by at least 4.2 per cent and their risk of heart disease by at least 4.5 per cent. To reach the calorie burn of a run, the walkers covered a distance about one and half times farther than that of the runners.

It may decrease your risk of some cancers: Any type of physical activity will improve metabolism, regulate hormone levels, and enhance immune function, and walking is no different.

A 2005 study reported that colorectal cancer patients who exercised or simply walked for six or more hours a week were 60 per cent less likely to die from the disease than were sedentary patients. More recently, an American Cancer Society study reported that an hour of daily walking may reduce a woman’s likelihood of a breast cancer diagnosis by 14 per cent.

Consider your technique and set realistic goals

Turning your normal walk into a fitness stride requires good posture and purposeful movements.

For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity a week. Physical activity can be spread throughout the week. The guidelines also recommend strength training exercises of all the major muscle groups at least twice a week.

As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. If you cannot set aside that much time, try several 10-minute sessions throughout the day.

Experts advise that it is okay to start slowly, especially if you haven’t been exercising regularly. You might start with five minutes a day the first week, and then increase your time by five minutes each week until you reach at least 30 minutes.

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Tokunbo David
Tokunbo David

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