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Banishing wrinkles and reducing your cancer risk: The 7 secret benefits you get from just 30 minutes of walking

Mirror logo Mirror 16/06/2017 Warren Manger

Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty You might think you haven’t time to get fit and healthy, but just 30 minutes of ­moderate exercise , such as a brisk walk, is enough to start shedding those extra pounds and wind back your body clock.

Rob Copeland, professor of physical activity at Sheffield Hallam University , says: “If they could create a pill to prescribe to everyone to make them healthier and younger, it would do exactly what walking does.

“You have to work pretty hard to find a part of the body that walking doesn’t benefit.

“And something is better than nothing, especially for those people who are normally inactive. Ten minutes of brisk walking can have a really positive impact on your health and wellbeing.”

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Walking can help protect you from deadly diseases such as heart disease , diabetes and cancer. It can also combat stress , making you look and feel younger. It can even given you smoother skin.

Best of all, the first 30 minutes of exercise you do each week deliver the biggest benefits.

And the more you do – such as a 10, 20 or 30-minute walk each day – the better your body will feel each time.

Here’s the proof that walking really is the best medicine...

© Getty Images Your heart

A study in the medical journal The Lancet in 2012 showed a third of us are physically inactive.

If that third all walked for 30 minutes each week it could cut cases of heart disease by 11%.

A stronger heart can pump more blood with each beat so it doesn’t have to work so hard.

Prof Copeland says: “The heart is a muscle. If you train it by going for a brisk walk, it becomes more efficient. The potential benefits are huge, including lower blood pressure .”

Walking can also reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in our blood by encouraging the liver to release more of the enzymes that remove bad cholesterol.

This also reduces your risk of heart disease by helping to keep your arteries healthy and prevent the dangers of clogging.

Your lungs

While walking may increase the capacity of your heart, it cannot alter the size of your lungs.

However, it can help your body make better use of the oxygen your lungs supply.

The more you exercise, the more efficiently your muscles become in using oxygen so they can complete the job at hand with less and you are less likely to get short of breath.

The results are rapid and remarkable. A walking programme for inactive people in their seventies found a brisk 10-minute walk, three times a week, reversed 22 years of declining lung efficiency in just 22 weeks, making them feel younger and healthier.

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Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty Your stomach

One of the most obvious ways walking can make you feel younger and healthier is by helping you lose weight.

Walking briskly for just 10 minutes can burn 50 calories, depending on your weight.

That is the equivalent to a Babybel light cheese or a cup of skinny popcorn.

Walking increases your metabolism, making your body burn calories and fat faster. Walk fast enough to raise your heart rate and your metabolism can remain raised even after you stop moving. And if you walk for longer or more regularly throughout the week, the results can really add up.

Walking briskly for 45 minutes should be enough to make your body start burning fat reserves, which can speed up weight loss.

Losing weight can lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes, one of the fastest growing diseases. If everyone walked for 30 minutes each week there would be 13% fewer cases of diabetes .

Prof Copeland says: “Walking also helps to improve insulin sensitivity and our ability to cope with sugar, which is another way to offset the risk of diabetes.”

Your skin

Moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk, increases blood flow to the skin , keeping the cells nourished and healthy looking. That increased blood flow also carries away more waste products such as free radicals, which are a cause of wrinkles.

Dermatologist Ellen Marmur says: “You can think of it as cleansing your skin from the inside.”

And exercise helps to improve muscle tone. Although that doesn’t directly improve the quality of your skin, firmer muscles help you look healthier and younger.

Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty Your bones

When you walk and move around, your muscles pull on your bones. That might sound like it would weaken your bones, but it actually strengthens them. Your bones are living tissue and respond to the extra workload by growing thicker and stronger.

The stress hormone cortisol also interferes with the osteoblast cells that build your bones, making them produce less bone and leaving you with low density bones and a greater risk of osteoporosis.

Walking to lower your cortisol levels can reverse that impact, keeping your bones thicker and stronger.

Prof Copeland says: “There is also a strong link between walking and reduction in musculoskeletal disorders, such as lower back pain, which is often a result of sitting down for long periods.”

Your head

Walking is good for your mood and mental health for several reasons.

First, it releases the body’s feel-good hormones, known as endorphins, which make us feel healthier and happier.

It also helps to reduce the amount of stress hormone cortisol that our body produces. In the short term, cortisol helps you deal with the fight-or-flight reaction caused by stressful situations.

But if your stress and cortisol levels remain high for too long it can interfere with your memory, lower your immunity, and increase weight gain, blood pressure , cholesterol and heart disease.

Prof Copeland says: “We know one of the effects of stress is that it can make you look and feel older.

“Walking can reduce your cortisol levels, which can de-stress you, making you feel like you have more energy and feel younger.”

Walking also gets you outside into green spaces which is proven to be good for mental health.

Your cells

Walking for 30 minutes each week can reverse your risk of developing a whole range of cancers .

The same Lancet study that showed improved heart function also revealed that walking could cut the number of breast cancers by 18% and colon cancer by 19%.

This is because cancer – like many other diseases – can be caused by inflammation in the cells that make up our body. Walking helps to reduce that swelling and the resulting risk of disease.

Prof Copeland says: “Within the cells of your body you have mitochondria. They are like your little batteries. They are constantly being charged within your cells, ready to be used.

“If you are not active, that energy is not being used and that creates inflammation in the cell. We know that is the mechanism through which a lot of these diseases are caused.”

© Getty Images How to boost your step count

Setting aside time to take a walk is a great way to feel healthier and younger. But spending the rest of your day sitting down still isn’t good for your health.

Prof Copeland says: “Working at a university I spend six or seven hours sat at my computer every day, but because I cycle half an hour to work and half an hour home again, I’m considered to be active.

“The truth is I still spend an inordinate amount of time sat on my backside, polishing the seat of my trousers.”

Here are some of the best ways to increase your steps and the number of calories you burn.

■ Climb stairs instead of using the lift or escalator and take it one step at a time. Researchers at the University of Roehampton in London found that used 302 calories per week, compared to 266 calories per week if you climb two steps with every stride upwards.

■ Household chores might seem boring, but are a great way to get active. Half an hour of housework – such as pushing a vacuum cleaner – can burn nearly 100 calories and tone your muscles.

■ Get green-fingered. An hour of raking leaves, digging and mowing the lawn can burn around 330 calories.

While you are outdoors grab a sponge and a bucket of soapy water and clean the car yourself instead of taking it to a car wash. You will save money and burn 180 calories.

■ When parking your car, chose a space further from the entrance so you walk more. This is great when shopping, as carrying light shopping for five minutes burns up to 44 calories. Commuters can squeeze in extra steps by getting off the bus or train one stop earlier and walking the rest of the way.

■ Stand up as much as possible at work. If you need to speak to someone in the next office walk round and see them rather than picking up the phone or sending an email.

If you do have to use the phone, get into the habit of walking as you talk. Walking around for just half an hour a day at work can burn 400 calories over a week and ease symptoms of back pain.

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