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The Most


Friendly Way

To Exercise

Lynn Smith
Professional Health Coach

It's so easy to become a couch potato. Are you less active today than you used to be? Between the career and raising kids you're pulled in many directions during the course of a day. By the time dinner is in the table you're exhausted. Instead of taking care of yourself, are you in the habit of settling down in front of the TV for American Idol or Lost?

It doesn't take long to develop an unhealthy lifestyle. So now what do you do? You remember when exercise had a place in your life. How can you get back into the habit? Starting out now is going to be a little harder than when you were younger. You're a bit more out of shape and carrying more weight. But take heart, all you need is intention. But being a bit out of shape and overweight, what's the best way to start? It's not as hard as you think. Just put one foot in front of the other: walk!

Many studies have documented the benefits of walking. A recent study from the Louisiana State University shows that every ten minutes of exercise per day can improve cardiovascular fitness. In working with a group of overweight or obese subjects, researchers found that as little as 72 minutes of exercise per week improved cardiovascular fitness by four percent. That's just over ten minutes a day!

Australian researchers monitored a group of sedentary individuals and found that adding an additional 2,000 steps to their day resulted in losing just over an inch from their waists. An extra 2,000 steps takes about 17 to 34 minutes of walking.

Dr. Robert Gotlin, DO, Director of Orthopedic & Sports Rehabilitation at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York states, "Doing a brisk walk can burn up to 500 calories per hour."

The health benefits of walking are profound:

1. Reduce cardiovascular disease by as much as 30 to 50%

2. Lower blood pressure and reduce risk of heart attack

3. Protect against diabetes in high risk people

4. Lower blood glucose and improve insulin action in diabetics

Walking also benefits a vital organ- our brain. A brisk walk boosts circulation in all parts of the body, brain included. Some research shows walking is associated with less cognitive decline as we age. And it ramps up production of a brain compound called brain-derived neuroptrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF has been called 'Miracle Gro for the brain".

Do you get stressed out? Walking regularly is a great stress management technique. It helps keep emotions in check and has been shown to ward off depression and anxiety. Did you know it can also help you sleep better? One study showed that walking more than six blocks a day can reduce sleep problems by one third.

So what are you waiting for? Try a short walk in the morning and another one at lunch or after work. The great part is walking can be accumulated over the course of day so don't wait until you have a chunk of time to devote. You know it will never happen that way!

Here's some advice from Richard Cotton, a spokesman from the American Council on Exercise. Start by walking five to ten minutes at a time, working up to at least thirty minutes per session and don't add more than five minutes at a time.

Give yourself an edge by buying a pedometer. Researchers have found that using it increased activity by an extra 2,491 steps per day in their studies. That was a 25% increase in activity.

Trying to build an active lifestyle can be daunting. The key to success is to take doable steps. Taking on too much can make it hard to be consistent. If you've tried and failed at getting exercise into your busy schedule, follow Richard Cotton's advice by walking five to ten minutes a day. We all have ten minutes somewhere in our day. Make it a priority. Before long you'll have make it a habit - one you can feel good about.


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