Walking for 20 minutes a day, even at the mall, is beneficial
IT IS possible to walk your way to health, and in fact it has been proven that for every minute you walk, you increase your lifespan by one-and-a-half to two minutes, says Professor Wayne Derman, a specialist in sport and exercise medicine at Stellenbosch University.
“There is a misconception that walking is not a form of exercise. But if you walk regularly at a brisk pace, it has phenomenal advantages for your health,” Derman said.
Derman heads up the newly established Institute of Sports and Exercise Medicine (ISEM) at the university’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.
He said walking can also play a significant role in weight-loss.
“Research shows that you can drop more than 3kg a year by just walking for 20 minutes a day.
“If you are going to do 20 minutes of walking every day you are going to add years to your life.
“And by walking 30 minutes a day you will halve your risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, depression and Alzheimer’s disease,” Derman said.
“If you add another 15 minutes to that and walk for 45 minutes every day, you will also halve your chance of catching the common cold because exercise has a beneficial effect on the immune system.
“The key message is that you should walk as much as you can – even if you can’t do 45 minutes a day, you are going to get benefit from every minute you walk.”
This did not mean high-speed powerwalking, he said.
“You do have to move at a brisk pace that will make you sweat if you walk for longer than 10 minutes.
“You have to exercise moderately. You should still be able to talk to someone walking next to you, but you should not be too out of breath to sing,” Derman said.
“If it is too cold or raining, go to the mall and walk there,” Derman said.
South African Society of Physiotherapy (SASP) president Dr Ina Diener said being active did not mean having to spend hours at the gym, or running or cycling.
“It can mean simply moving more – walking around the mall rather than ordering online, gardening, pacing while talking on the phone . . . ” she said.
Research published last year showed that people who did 300 minutes of “lifestyle low-intensity physical activity” a week fared better when it came to important markers of health (such as inflammation factors and insulin resistance).
“We’re always told that we have to do at least 150 minutes of ‘exercise’ a week, but while it’s really good to run or swim or do some other fairly strenuous form of activity, it’s just as important to be physically active on a continual basis,” Diener said.
“Our bodies were not designed for that yet we sit still for hours each day, at work, school, or in front of a screen at night.
“It’s a harsh thought, but recent research concluded that prolonged daily sitting – for more than three hours a day – is linked to 3.8% of deaths.”