By Lara Evans Bracciante
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, February/March 2005.
Having trouble sticking to your New Year’s resolution to exercise? Quit fretting about it and just start walking. According to a recent study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, regular exercise (such as walking) reduced mortality risk by 35 percent. For those who had high risk of heart disease, the decreased risk was even higher at 45 percent. And even obese subjects who were active had a lower risk of dying sooner. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School and the Veteran’s Administration Ann Arbor Health Care System, observed more than 9,600 people in their 50s and 60s.
Where to start? Get yourself a good pair of walking shoes and a schedule. While you’ll want to build up to daily walks of 30 minutes — and eventually 60 minutes for maximum health benefits — at least five times a week, start slow. Even beginning with 10 minutes a day will help you develop a consistent habit. Your speed should reflect your ability; decide what’s manageable, and build from there to achieve moderately intense activity. Your breathing should be noticeable, but you should still be able to carry on a conversation while walking. If you’re unable to walk a mile in 20 minutes, your first goal should be to walk 30-60 minutes a day without injury. As you get this consistently under your belt, slowly increase your speed.
In addition to lowering risk of heart disease, diabetes, and breast cancer, daily exercise increases energy, decreases fatigue, and induces happiness.