Researchers have really been looking into how exercise can help improve the quality and length of our life. Sanjay Sharma, professor of inherited cardiac diseases in sports cardiology at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London, pointed out that “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.”
A brisk walk provides us with the best source of natural energy. It boosts circulation and increases oxygen supply to each and every cell in the body, helping you feel more alert and alive. Regular walking should mean you sleep better too. It also serves to bring stiff joints back to life and ease muscle tension. We can all feel sluggish at times, but you can help break that cycle through walking.
Colon cancer. Research is clear that physically active men and women have about a 30%-40% reduction in the risk of developing colon cancer compared with inactive individuals. It appears that 30-60 minutes per day of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity is needed to decrease the risk, and there is a dose-response relationship, which means that the risk declines the more active you are. Breast cancer. There is reasonably clear evidence that physically active women have a greater reduction in risk compared with inactive women. Like colon cancer, it appears that 75 to 150 minutes per day of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity is needed to decrease the risk, and it is likely that there is a dose-response relationship as well. Prostate cancer. Research is inconsistent regarding whether physical activity plays any role in the prevention of this cancer. Lung cancer. There are relatively few studies on physical activity and lung cancer prevention. The available data suggest that physically active individuals have a lower risk of lung cancer; however, it is difficult to completely account for the risks of active and passive cigarette smoking as well as radon exposure. Other cancers. There is little information on the role of physical activity in preventing other cancers.
For weight loss, gradually work up to 45 minutes or longer at moderate to vigorous intensity five to six days a week, allowing for at least one day of rest a week. Vigorous intensity refers to an activity that will have your heart beating quite a bit more than moderate intensity workouts, and your breathing will be harder so saying more than a few words will be difficult.
You might find ways to incorporate walking into your daily routine if you can't find the time to go walking for the sake of it. Take the stairs instead of the escalator or the lift; walk to the shops if they're close by; if you visit a friend who doesn't live too far away, leave the car at home. It's surprising how much difference it can make when you regularly climb a few flights of stairs and take frequent short walks.
“This has all been scientifically proven,” says Hall. “Dr Darren James, research fellow at South Bank University, has done a study showing all this. WalkActive significantly and statistically improves your posture, increases your walking speed by up to 24%, reduces joint impact, joint stress at the knee and at the ankle and improves your body shape.” It is, unmistakably, a fitness programme, as in, you would undertake it for the same reasons as an aerobics class, to lose weight, or at the very least, redistribute it in a more sightly way. I did several 10-minute walks, and while never out of breath, was certainly more tired at the end than I would normally have been.
A study conducted with 17,000 Harvard graduates showed that students who walked for at least 30 minutes every day lived longer than those who were sedentary (17). Walking may or may not activate the telomerase enzyme, which is responsible for maintaining DNA integrity, an important factor in aging, but it helps prevent many age-related problems (18).