Stride out into the au­tumn coun­try­side to boost your health, help pro­tect against dis­ease and boost your mood

Country Living (UK) - - Contents - Words by anne mon­tague

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

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