When it comes to being healthy, we tend to think of joining gyms, quick fixes or buying expensive fitness equipment. But there's one thing we tend to overlook … well, two actually. Our feet.
Walking is one of the simplest forms of exercise that offers maximum health benefits and there's lots of scientific evidence to prove it.
A study published in the British Medical Journal found that brisk walking can be just as effective as taking medication for some health conditions, such as heart disease. Another study found that walking up to an hour a day can significantly reduce women's risk of breast cancer. However, the most recent study has found that walking for just 17 minutes a day can have a dramatic effect on your health.
Research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that walking for just two hours a week - or 17 minutes a day - is linked to a lower risk of dying from cancer and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
"Walking has been described as the 'perfect exercise' because it is simple, free, convenient, doesn't require any special equipment or training, and can be done at any age," lead researcher Dr. Alpa Patel told Medical News Today.
"[Our] findings are encouraging for the many individuals who do not currently engage in a physical activity regimen, as they can achieve tremendous health benefits from simply walking."
The study analysed data from 140,000 people who took part in a longitudinal cancer prevention study. The researchers discovered that even people who took on a minimal level of exercise a week were less likely to die as a result, compared to those who were not physically active at all.
It must be noted that while the study highlighted the benefits of walking, the findings also proved that the very best outlook concerning early death came from those who met or exceeded 150 minutes of moderate cardio plus strength training.
Why you should be walking every day
Walking can make a difference to your overall health, improve your cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat and boost muscle power.
Walking is low impact and requires minimal equipment, but the best part is that it's easy to slot into your busy day.
For those of us with a jam-packed schedule, it may seem impossible but the key is to change up your daily routine by walking the kids to school, getting some fresh air and a brisk stroll at lunchtime, meeting a friend for a walk and a chat instead of a coffee, walking the dog or even walking around the shops.
Health benefits of walking
- Reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke
- Increased muscle strength and endurance
- Improved balance and stronger bones
- Increased cardiovascular fitness
- Reduced overall body fat
- Improved mood, especially in women and older people
- Increased energy and decreased fatigue
- Improved overall sense of wellbeing