Walking as Exercise

Exercise is important. One in four Americans are obese, and it is estimated that within five years, that number will rise to one in three. This is a major health crisis because obesity means a tenfold increase in the risk of premature death. When people are obese, it’s usually a combination of usually are affected by behavior, genetics, and environmental factors.

Experts say obesity increases the likelihood of certain diseases, along with related health problems. In particular, according to a recent study, a sedentary lifestyle can cause serious long-term damage. In the study, active volunteers were asked to reduce their levels of physical activity by an average of over 60 percent. during the period of inactivity, the volunteers were found to have blood sugar spikes sooner after eating—a common precursor to type 2 diabetes. The longer the subjects remained sedentary, the more severely their blood sugar spiked. The researchers, a team at the University of Missouri, found these spikes even in people eating healthy diets. The difference was entirely exercise.

Fortunately, exercise doesn’t have to be difficult. Even walking can provide enough physical activity to keep blood sugar under control, but the average American walks only about 5,000 steps per day. Walking as exercise requires no equipment or training. Thirty minutes a day—which doesn’t have to be all at once—five days a week is enough to make a significant difference. It’s easy to work into your lifestyle in small ways. Park a little farther away, or at the far end of the parking lot. If you use public transportation, try getting off a stop earlier, if it’s convenient.

You can also set out to walk purely as exercise. Look for a place with straight, well-paved paths on level ground, and without a lot of traffic that would interfere. Parks often have good walking paths. A shopping mall may be a good choices, if it’s feasible, and offers the additional advantage of providing good shelter from the weather—just don’t keep stopping in stores and be careful about where you go for a post-exercise snack. Set reasonable goals for yourself, recognizing that results will not be dramatic. On the other hand, you can walk far longer without fatigue than more intense forms of exercise.

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