Inactivity is destructive. In fact, the World Health Organization believes that about two million deaths a year are due to a sedentary lifestyle, making it among the top ten leading causes of death and disability in the world. If you’re one of the estimated 60-85% of people who are sedentary, here’s a practical and lifestyle friendly exercise to help step up your activity level.
The consequences of inactivity are serious. A sedentary lifestyle can double the risk of cardiovascular diseases and can also negatively impact metabolic, cellular, immune, musculoskeletal, neurological and lung health. Fortunately, adding even a little activity—such as regular walking—can help you glean significant health benefits.
Walking is an exercise that just about everyone can do and it doesn’t require expensive equipment. It fits in with your schedule, can be done for any length of time and the intensity can be adjusted for age, health status and fitness goals.
The American Heart Association says vigorous activities that include brisk walking and moderate activities that include walking for pleasure can help reduce the following risk factors for heart disease:
- High blood pressure
- Obesity and overweight
- High levels of triglycerides
- Low levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol)
Even a little exercise like walking goes a long way. It can increase your energy, metabolism, muscle tone, bone strength and overall health. Walking can also:
- Reduce body fat and enhance mental well being
- Increase bone density, flexibility and coordination
- Help control body weight
- Bolster the immune system
Walking is a great way to give your lungs a workout, too. When we exercise, we help the body remove toxins through breathing more deeply (which releases toxins from the lungs), perspiration and muscle activity. Deep breathing also increases oxygen flow to the brain and other vital organs, while oxygenating and cleansing the blood. Most people, however, don’t maximize their breathing.
If you’re not moving as much as you should, then give walking a try. A total of 30 minutes of brisk walking each day of the week is recommended, although you should always check with your healthcare professional prior to starting any exercise program.
To make sure you are also getting all the benefits of deep breathing, try this while walking: inhale slowly for five to seven steps and then exhale slowly for five to seven steps.
Walking and deep breathing have major health benefits, so get a "two-for-one deal." Take a deep breath and count your steps.