Yesterday I visited a friend and he asked if we could drive to the high street for coffee. I told him the high street is about 10 minutes walk and the weather is pleasant. He informed me that he hardly walks and would fancy one today. We began a conversation on the benefits of walking and he said he goes to the gym once a week. I told him I walk every day and reckon it will be healthier than going to the gym once a week.
The next time you visit your doctor, don’t be surprised if he/she hands you a prescription to walk. Yes, this simple activity that you’ve been doing since you were about a year old is now being touted as ”the closest thing to a wonder drug”. In the words of Dr Thomas Frieden, director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Of course, you probably know that any physical activity including walking, is a boon to your overall health but walking in particular comes with a host of benefits. Here’s a list of five that may surprise you.
- It counteracts the effect of weigh-promoting genes. Harvard researchers looked at 32 obesity-promoting genes in over 12,000 people to determine how much these genes in actually contribute to body weight. They then discovered that, among the study participants who walked briskly for about n a hour a day, the effect of those genes were cut in half. In other words walking kills obese-promoting genes. Next time you want pop out to the supermarket or visit a relative neighbouring your estate or you got sometime available to idle away, do not jump into the car or take public transport. WALK and you will reap the benefits.
- It helps tame a sweet tooth: a pair of studies from the University of Exeter found that a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for chocolate and even reduce the amount of chocolate you eat in stressful situations. And the latest research confirms that walking can cravings and intake of a variety of sugary snacks.
- It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers already know that any kind of physical activity blunts the risk of breast cancer. But an American Cancer Society study that zeroed in on walking found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked 3 hours or fewer per week. And walking provided this protection even for the women with breast cancer risk factors such as being overweight or using supplemental hormones.
- It eases joint pain. Several studies have found that walking reduces arthritis-related pain and that walking 5 to 6 miles a week can even prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. Walking protects the joints especially the knees and hips which are most susceptible to osteoarthritis by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that support them.
- It boosts immune function. Walking can help protect you during cold and flue season. A study of over 1000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. If they get sick it will be for a shorter duration and their symptoms were milder.