Like quitting smoking, losing a few kilos and clocking 8 hours of sleep, walking is a way to reduce the impact of disease.
That could mean you live healthily for longer.
According to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), just 15 extra minutes of brisk walking per person, 5 days a week, would reduce 'disease burden due to physical inactivity' in the population by about 13%.
Disease burden due to inactivity is basically the years of healthy life lost when you live with an illness or injury, or die prematurely.
Diseases linked to physical inactivity include coronary heart disease, diabetes, bowel cancer, breast cancer, uterine cancer, dementia and stroke.
"If the extra activity rose to 30 minutes, the burden could be reduced by 26%," says AIHW spokesperson Michelle Gourley.
The Heart Foundation's national CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly, says many people underestimate the effects of physical inactivity — on themselves, their loved ones and the health system.
"Walking is hugely underrated as a powerful prescription for good health and this latest research shows how beneficial it can be in lowering your risk of heart disease," he says.
Are you at risk?
This can be as simple as taking a walk during your lunch break, parking a few blocks away, or walking the kids to school.
Some more simple ways to incorporate walking into your day:
- Rather than spend 5 minutes circling a car park looking for that 'perfect space' right near the entrance, park 5 minutes away and spend that time walking instead.
- En route to work, get off public transport a few stops early. If you walk for 10 minutes to and from work, you'll have clocked 20 minutes without even noticing.
- Walk rather than rest on escalators; it's quicker so you'll actually save time. Better still, use the stairs.
- Catch up with friends by walking together rather than meeting for coffee or brunch.
- Make your goals specific, measurable and achievable. Rather than a vague goal like 'I will get fit', try 'I will walk every day for 10 minutes after meals'.
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