Lower your risk of major illness by walking regularly

I’ve been pacing and reading this morning in the Woodland. Taking the opportunity to walk whenever I can. We all know that exercise is good for us but often relate that to going to the gym or joining an aerobics class. Well, recent research has shown that something as simple as a regular walking routine can bring you great health benefits. We’re all at it here. The toadstools are elf bottom free!

There are a number of known risk factors for health issues such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These can include hypertension (high blood pressure), central obesity and elevated blood sugar. Metabolic syndrome (MetSyn) is the term used to describe a cluster of these factors in the same individual. The study examined how physical activity affects MetSyn by assessing maximal cardio-respiratory fitness (CRF).

Participants (38659) were taken from the large Aerobics Centre Longitudinal Study (ACLS) that was conducted between 1979 and 2006.  Ages ranged between 20 and 90 years old and CRF was measured using a treadmill exercise test. Statistical models allowed categorisation of fitness levels into low (sedentary); moderate (as expected from public health guidelines recommending 30 minutes of exercise 3-5 times per week); and high. MetSyn outcomes measured included BMI (Body Mass Index), waist circumference, resting blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. The cumulative measurements were reported as a summed ‘z-score’ after analysis, as this allowed patients to get credit for improvement in any category. Physical inactivity was defined as having no physical activity during leisure time 3 months before the examination. This is what they found:

  • There is a significant inverse relationship between fitness and MetSyn for both men and women
  • Waist circumference is the MetSyn factor with the strongest relationship
  • Those in the moderate fitness category have a markedly reduced prevalence of MetSyn compared to those in the low fitness category

But:

  • Participants were mostly white, well educated and from a middle to upper socioeconomic background.  So the results may not apply to other ethnic groups

The authors concluded:

People don’t have to commit to a structured exercise programme, or take up jogging, it’s as simple as being more active by getting up off the couch or up from your desk and walking on a regular basis. Pretty much anyone can get into the moderate fitness category and the effects on risk are phenomenal.

So there you go. Yesterday you may have spent the day making your heart flutter with declarations of love and happiness. Today you can get it all a flutter with a jolly good hike to the shops and back, to work and back or to school and back. No more excuses about costly gym membership or the perils of jogging. Looks like you can make a big difference by simply putting one foot in front of the other!

Links:

Conrad P. Earnest, Enrique G. Artero, Xuemei Sui, Duck-chul Lee, Timothy S. Church, Steven N. Blair, Maximal Estimated Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Cardiometabolic Risk Factors, and Metabolic Syndrome in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study.  j.mayocp.2012.11.006

 A regular walk can cut your risk of major illness, shows research (2013)