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February 1, 2023

Walk Faster to Live Longer

You probably don’t find getting outside for some fresh air and 30 minutes of physical activity as appealing as you did three months ago when the sun was out and the temperature often hit 70 degrees. Now we have colder weather, darker skies, and longer nights, not to mention the couch is more inviting. This time of year, many of us give up too easily on getting outside for some physical activity and fresh air. But don’t give up.

The fourth habit in our Simple 9© Habits for a Healthy Life advises we walk 30 minutes or 7,500 steps per day. Physical activity, spending time moving in a structured way, represents the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. More and more research helps us understand that staying physically active, day in and day out, regardless of the weather or how you feel, is key to living a long, healthy life.

In nature, any biological organism considers movement a critical function for survival. If you can’t move, you can’t find food, or you might become someone else’s food. As we get older, our ability to move determines our independence. And the better we move, the more independence we have. Some new research sheds light on the importance of physical activity for our health and longevity.

A study published last month in Nature Magazine found that regular physical activity doesn’t just change your waistline, it also affects the molecules in the human body that determine how genes behave. The study looked at 70 pairs of identical twins. Observations showed that the more physically active siblings had lower signs of metabolic disease measured by waist size and body mass index.

The remarkable part of the study was seen in changes that occurred in the most active siblings at the genetic level. The more active twins had epigenetic markers linked to lowered metabolic syndrome, a condition that can lead to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. The study showed that regular physical activity changed a person’s DNA sequence, so it showed a lower proclivity towards metabolic syndrome.

In other words, walking regularly can prevent metabolic syndrome at the level of your DNA regardless of your genetics. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors specific for cardiovascular disease, which include obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol. More than 30% of adults in the U.S. show a prevalence of metabolic syndrome. Something as simple as walking on a regular basis could turn that around.

Other recent studies have shown that walking speed can predict mortality independent of all other risk factors. For people over 60, walking fast vs. walking slow can lower your risk of dying from a heart attack by 53%. The research defined a faster walking speed as about 3 mph, which equates to walking a mile in 20 minutes. By comparison, walking at a slow speed of less than 2 mph, you could not walk a mile in 30 minutes.

At Exercise Inc, we are all about strength training, and it’s hard to match the health improvements that you can experience from strength training. Slower walkers can especially benefit from strength training because strength training has proven to improve walking speed.

The benefits from walking regularly at a brisk pace make a great compliment to the benefits of strength training.

It’s just as important to get outside now compared to three months ago when we saw nicer weather. In fact, your body functions better when you expose it to cold temperatures.

Getting out in the cold reduces joint pain by temporarily halting blood flow to inflamed areas. You can burn up to 34 percent more calories by walking outside in the cold. Additionally, your brain solves problems better when you go outside for a walk in the cold. And exposing yourself to colder temperatures improves your immune system.

Oh, and one thing I almost forgot to mention—if the sun happens to pop out, take off your hat so you can get some vitamin D.

My point is, your health benefits tremendously from walking regularly and walking at a pretty good pace. Don’t stop going outside for your daily walks because the temperatures have dropped. Embrace the cold; it’s good for you.

And this time of year, make sure you have good walking shoes and watch out for the ice.

Well don’t just sit there. Get outside now for a 10-minute walk.

Stay Strong,

Bo Railey