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The Surprising Benefits of Walking

 

The next time you have a check-up, don’t be surprised if your doctor hands you a prescription to walk. Yes, this simple activity that you’ve been doing since you were about a year old is now being touted as “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug,” in the words of Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of course, you probably know that any physical activity, including walking, is a boon to your overall health. But walking in particular comes with a host of benefits.

Here’s a list of five that may surprise you.

It counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes

Harvard researchers looked at 32 obesity-promoting genes in over 12,000 people to determine how much these genes actually contribute to body weight. They then discovered that, among the study participants who walked briskly for about an hour a day, the effects of those genes were cut in half.

It helps tame a sweet tooth

A pair of studies from the University of Exeter found that a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for chocolate and even reduce the amount of chocolate you eat in stressful situations. And the latest research confirms that walking can reduce cravings and intake of a variety of sugary snacks.

It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. 

Researchers already know that any kind of physical activity blunts the risk of breast cancer. But an American Cancer Society study that zeroed in on walking found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week. And walking provided this protection even for the women with breast cancer risk factors, such as being overweight or using supplemental hormones.

It eases joint pain

Several studies have found that walking reduces arthritis-related pain, and that walking five to six miles a week can even prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. Walking protects the joints — especially the knees and hips, which are most susceptible to osteoarthritis — by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that support them.

It boosts immune function. 

Walking can help protect you during cold and flu season. A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.

Cite: Harvard Medical University News

 

Pentucket Medical Celebrates Walking Day!

walkingchallenge

We are proud to celebrate National Walking Day by kicking off the 4th annual Walking Challenge amongst the staff here at Pentucket Medical!

The Walking Challenge is a practice-wide event to get employees moving.  There are approximately 10-20 teams each year that participate.  Each team, comprised of 5 employees, is asked to select a team captain and a snappy name (these names are always very creative.)    Each team member wears a pedometer and tracks the steps they take each week.  The steps are then sent to HR and converted to miles.  The miles are then plotted out on a map of the United States.  There are certain checkpoints throughout the journey.  At each check point a few fun facts are disclosed.  A status report is then sent out weekly to highlight where teams are and to further motivate team progress. 

The walking challenge was initially created to provide increased employee engagement and to promote a healthy lifestyle.   People tend to get up and move more to increase their steps.  There is friendly competition between the teams and even within each team.  

In earlier years the winners was determined by the most miles walked as a team.  Due to the varying levels of participation, (we want everyone to participate and feel they have a chance to win even if they don’t walk 10 miles a day) the winner is now determined by a drawing.  Teams that consistently report their steps will  be put into a drawing at the end of the challenge.  The top 3 teams will win a prize. The prize is usually comprised of healthy snacks, water and other things. With all the health benefits to walking – everyone walks away a winner. 

Research has shown that the benefits of walking and moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:

  • Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Improve blood lipid profile
  • Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity
  • Enhance mental well being
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer
  • Reduce the risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes
     

There really are so many benefits for such a simple activity!