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By Martha Jette

Walking seems like one of the simplest things we do. However, many people just don’t do enough of it to keep them healthy. Instead, they opt to sit on the couch watching television or paying video games for hours on the Internet.

This sedentary lifestyle is a dangerous one that can cause a wide variety of health problems.

Walking as a cardio workout has more health benefits that you can imagine. First and foremost, this simple activity strengthens the heart reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke. And because the heart gets a workout, blood circulation throughout the body increases and brings much needed oxygen and vital nutrients to every muscle and organ.

Studies have shown that walking also improves cognitive function and alleviates depression. As well, it has been shown to strengthen joints, improves overall physical function and more.

If you’ve been one of those couch potatoes, begin by walking five to 10 minutes, two or three days a week. As you become accustomed to this, gradually increase your pace and the time you spend walking. As you increase these just beyond your comfort zone, you’ll get more out of your walks, increase your heart rate and lose weight.

The ultimate objective is to eventually reach 30 minutes per day, every day. If you have a dog, take your pet for daily walks. You can also add to the intensity of this cardio workout by jogging or running, as well as wearing or carrying weights. However, make sure you’re wearing a good pair of running shoes to avoid injury to feet and/or legs.

Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer

The American Cancer Society recommends 30-minutes of walking or other exercise each day to reduce the risk of breast cancer. A study of more than 74,000 women between 50 and 79 years of age by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that “women who walked for half an hour, from three to five times a week” reduced their risk from breast cancer by about 20 percent.

“For most, walking is probably going to be the easiest thing to do because it doesn’t require training or special equipment, just a good pair of shoes, said lead researcher Anne McTiernan.

Constipation

A study noted in the April 2005 issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology stated that “inactive, middle aged people with chronic constipation” who were put on a program of 30 minutes a day of brisk walking “dramatically cured a large percentage of them of constipation.” But the news on the benefit of walking for a healthy colon gets even better.

In the August 2005 issue of the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, it notes that a study (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16030427?dopt=Abstract) comparing people who were average in their lifelong physical activity vs. those who were the most active found that “the most physically active… had 1/3 the risk of colon cancer.”

Diabetes

In a study at the Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) at the University of Pittsburgh, it was found that walking 30 minutes a day reduced the risk of diabetes.

Andrea Kriska, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology at GSPH noted in the Oct. 1, 2003 issue of American Journal of Epidemiology that: “men and women who incorporate activity into their lifestyles are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who are sedentary.

This finding holds no matter what their initial weight. This suggests that adopting and maintaining a program of regular physical activity similar to what the Surgeon General’s recommendations suggest can play a significant role in preventing type 2 diabetes.”

As you can see, the simple act of walking brings many health benefits so get up off your couch or chair and get active. Walk to the corner store instead of driving. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. You’ll be glad you did!

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