The Hidden Health Benefits of Walking
Couch potatoes, beware: Being sedentary is twice as deadly as being obese, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
“Humans were designed to move, and not moving is a direct threat to health and wellness in the same way that smoking tobacco is,” says Matthew Beekley, Ph.D., associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Indianapolis. “Many scientists believe that being sedentary should be considered a disease in itself.”
The proof is in the probe: Over a course of 12 years, British researchers collected data from 334,000 men and women. The participants’ height, weight, waist circumference and level of physical activity were all tracked. The findings revealed that those who engaged in exercise that burned between 90 and 110 calories per day reduced their risk of early death by up to 30 percent. But before you sign up for a marathon (although, go you, if that’s your thing!), some perspective: That’s the equivalent of a daily 20-minute brisk walk.
“Doing just a bit of physical activity every day will yield substantial health benefits,” says Soren Brage, Ph.D., co-author of the study and leader of the physical activity epidemiology program at the University of Cambridge. “If you manage to do 10 to 20 minutes on top of the initial 20 minutes of walking, you would see additional benefits.” Brage credits this to the perks that exercise provides, like lower blood pressure, lower blood glucose and lower fat around the organs, which leads to a decrease in diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
But it’s not just a fast-paced stroll around the block at lunch that will help you go the extra mile towards good health. As long as you’re burning those 90 to 110 calories during the activity, your body is lapping up the benefits. Here, Beekley and Brage offer a few other fat-zapping ideas:
- Skip the elevator and hit the stairs for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Do jumping jacks, jump rope or skip for 15 minutes.
- Cycle at a lower intensity for 30 minutes—it’ll get your heart rate where it needs to be to feel the burn.
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