WALK THIS WAY
Stride out into the autumn countryside to boost your health, help protect against disease and boost your mood
If the health benefit of walking could be bottled, it would be seen as a wonder drug. In fact, it’s been estimated that if more people walked further every day, they could save the NHS almost £2 billion a year. New research suggests that walking as much as possible in everyday life could be better for you than gruelling gym workouts in between bouts of being sedentary. Here are some of the amazing advantages of simply putting one foot in front of the other…
BOOST HEART HEALTH Walking 2,000 extra steps a day cuts your risk of developing heart disease and stroke by eight per cent – that’s the equivalent of just 20 minutes’ walking on top of your normal activity. Double it to 40 minutes and you can reduce your risk by between 16 and 20 per cent. Other research has shown that walking is even better than running for lowering your chances of getting high blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease.
LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE Leave the car keys at home and walk to work instead. When experts at University College London and Imperial College surveyed how 2,000 people made their way to their jobs, they found that those who
walked, cycled or took public transport were less likely to be overweight and had a 17 per cent lower risk of high blood pressure than those who drove.
REDUCE BREAST-CANCER RISK When researchers followed nearly 60,000 women for a period of four years, they found that those who exercised for the equivalent of four hours a week – just 35 minutes’ walking each day – were less likely than sedentary women to develop breast cancer. But it’s important to keep going. Women who had been active and stopped over five years earlier were 16 per cent more likely to develop cancer than women who stuck with the exercise.
STABILISE BLOOD SUGAR Make time for a post-dinner stroll. US researchers discovered that walking after eating a big meal reduced the spikes in blood sugar that can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes. Other studies show that walking for half an hour every day could cut your risk by 30 per cent or more.
IMPROVE GUT HEALTH It’s thought that exercise helps to keep you ‘regular’, which means that cancer-causing substances in undigested food pass through your bowel more quickly. One study found that walking for an hour each day may lower bowel cancer risk by 25 per cent. Regular exercise also reduces the levels of insulin and other hormones thought to encourage the growth of tumours.
KEEP YOUR BRAIN SHARP Exercise is the number one thing you can do to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. As well as helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and keeping blood vessels healthy, aerobic exercises such as brisk walking have been shown to have a direct