The case for walking – how much should we be doing and why
When it comes to living a long, healthy life, every step counts. A 2014 study by Saarland University in Germany, presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress, suggests that a 25-minute brisk walk every day can add up to seven years to your life.
The best part is that the activity doesn’t require an expensive gym membership or gear. Just invest in a pair of proper-fitting walking shoes, and hit the running track in your neighbourhood park to reap the benefits, say health experts.
“Walking is a great exercise because it benefits the entire body, and almost anyone can do it,” says Dr Alejandro Jiménez Restrepo, staff physician at the Heart & Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
“It is one of the most important factors in reducing the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and can help lower the risk of diabetes, strengthen bones, reduce stress and improve sleep.”
Restrepo says adults under the age of 65 should aim to walk for at least 30 minutes five days a week, as well as aim to clock in 10,000 steps throughout the day through activities such as walking to meetings at work, walking their pets and grocery shopping.
People with diabetes and those with high levels of insulin resistance can manage their condition better by incorporating walking into their routines, say doctors at the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre in Abu Dhabi.
Dr Saf Naqvi, a medical director, consultant physician and endocrinologist, says that moderate activity can reduce body fat and increase lean muscle, while also controlling blood glucose.
“Exercise increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin, both naturally produced insulin and injected insulin,” he says. “Greater sensitivity to insulin helps the body use it effectively to lower blood glucose levels.”
A 2013 study by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services found that diabetics who took a short walk after a meal managed their disease better.
Naqvi adds that three 10-minute bursts of activity any time during the day can be just as effective. But people living with the condition must also take precautions to prevent hypoglycaemia.
“Diabetics need to take special care during and after exercise, when blood glucose can dip,” he says.
“Another thing that can help is setting a regular time for your walk to better predict your blood sugar levels and how they are affected by exercise.”
Lifestyle habits begin at a young age, and parents must ingrain the habit of walking through family activities. Susan Tully, the head of podiatry at Healthpoint hospital in Abu Dhabi, says physical activity is losing out to computer games and mobile phones.
“A sedentary habit when young becomes a lifestyle when they are adults,” warns Tully.
She says young people should aim to spend at least 60 minutes doing a physical activity, which should be done at school as well as at home. Tully says young people can add to their steps each day by being dropped off farther away from school and walking the extra distance, taking the stairs to their classrooms and involving friends in the activity.
Published: April 20, 2016 04:00 AM