Walking is a great form of exercise that everyone can benefit from. It does not require any special equipment and is a great low impact and low intensity exercise that even those who are ill or frail can enjoy.
Walking also has great health benefits - new research has found that more than 10,000 cases of breast and bowel cancer could be prevented each year if people took more exercise, such as going for brisk walks or performing vigorous household chores. Another study found that a gentle stroll several times a week not only boosts fitness but can also make you smarter.
Walking Prevents Cancer
Scientists at the World cancer Research Fund (WCRF) believe that just 45 minutes of moderate exercise a day could stop 5,500 cases of breast cancer developing in Britain annually.
Similarly, at least 4,600 cases of bowel cancer could be prevented if people exercised for 30 minutes daily.
A proportional drop in mortality rates from the diseases would cut deaths from breast cancer by 1,500 and from bowel cancer by 1,900 annually.
Exercise does not have to mean going to the gym; alongside brisk walking, other activities that are health-beneficial include cycling or swimming at a leisurely pace, gardening and vacuuming combined with other housework.
Exercise has a preventative effect on its own but also works in another way because people who are regularly active are less likely to be overweight, which is an important cancer risk factor.
Walking Boosts Brainpower
Research from the U.S. has revealed that walking 'at one's own pace' for 40 minutes, three times a week can improve intelligence.
Scientists say moderate walking enhances connections between the brain's circuits, combats a drop in brain function linked to aging and even improves performance in reasoning tasks. By studying brain scans, psychologists at Illinois University found cognitive function levels among nearly 100 sedentary people improved dramatically after a year in which they walked a few times a week, compared with participants who only did stretching exercises.
The scientist who led the research said previous studies have found that exercise can enhance the function of specific brain structures, but this latest study shows that even moderate exercise also improves the co-ordination of important brain networks.
To get the most from your walks, aim to walk for at least 20 minutes several days a week. Begin walking at a slow pace to get warmed up, and then increase your pace to a brisk, constant walk. This increases the heart-rate and breathing and will make your walks more effective.