Walk more: Every step does wonders for your health
Blog Author: Catherine CameronPosted: Thursday, January 14, 2016 - 14:08
Exercise is medicine—science proves it. It has proven physical and mental health benefits; it can help prevent disease; it can reverse, slow, and treat many conditions; and it’s the only proven way to slow the aging process. No wonder so many physicians now prescribe it.
Only 7% of children and 15% of adults in Canada are active enough to obtain health benefits. Walking more is perhaps the simplest, most accessible, and most cost-effective solution to this inactivity and its ensuing disease processes and health outcomes.
For so long, Canadians have undervalued walking, turning a blind eye to its innumerable benefits. If you’re among the millions who view January as an ideal time for a fresh start, choosing to take more steps could be the best resolution you ever make. In fact, it could set you on a path for a healthy, happier, and longer life and help save millions in health spending.
As a former personal trainer, and having led fitness classes for over 25 years, I consider walking to be the best form of exercise available. It requires no special equipment, no expensive gym membership, and can be done almost anywhere—even in the pool. Those who are concerned that walking won’t provide enough of a challenge or deliver sufficient results can amp up their walking workouts with longer distances, a speedier pace, and varied terrain like trails and hills.
To optimize my own walking workouts, when I don’t have my dog’s leash in hand, I grab my Nordic walking poles. Nordic walking burns 20% to 45% more calories than regular walking; engages arm, core, and back muscles; and engages 90% of the muscles in the body as opposed to 40% with regular walking. Stride at a brisk pace and you’ll work more muscles than most people do in a session at the gym. Better still, there are all sorts of proven health benefits to outdoor activity and a healthy dose of what I call vitamin N, nature.
It’s time to shelve what could have been, should have been, and wasn’t, and to focus on a healthier today and tomorrow. Aim for at 10 000 steps per day, but remember that every step you take offers health benefits. Start slowly and ramp up gradually, there’s no shame in this approach.
Research shows that a commitment to regular walking can help:
• Prevent heart disease
• Reduce the risk of stroke
• Lower blood pressure
• Manage stress
• Lead to better posture
• Maintain healthy cholesterol levels
• Reduce the risk of many cancers
• Boost bone density
• Improve our mental health
• Save us time and money
• Reduce vehicle congestion and emissions
• Give us more energy
• Reconnect us with nature
• Make us happier
Make 2016 the year you keep it simple. Snap on a step counter or pedometer, lace up some shoes or pull on your winter boots, and go where your feet take you.
Catherine Cameron is a Canadian health and wellness writer.
This posting has not been peer reviewed by the BCMJ Editorial Board.