A healthy, longer life is a walk in the park

Walk it off… just a little bit. This is the message a Stellenbosch University sport and exercise medicine specialist is spreading for World Move for Health Day, celebrated yesterday, Tuesday May 10.

The simple act of walking can help you lose weight, protect you from chronic disease, and even make you live longer, according to Professor Wayne Derman, a specialist in sport and exercise medicine at Stellenbosch University (SU).

“There is a misconception that walking is not a form of exercise. But if you walk regularly at a brisk pace, it has phenomenal advantages for your health,” says Professor Derman, who heads the newly- established Institute of Sports and Exercise Medicine (ISEM) at SU’s Faculty of Medicine.

“Science has shown that for every minute you walk, you increase your lifespan by one-and-a-half to two minutes,” says Professor Derman.

Walking can also help you shed a few extra kilos. Research shows that you can drop more than 3kg a year by just walking for 20 minutes a day.

“If you are going to do 20 minutes of walking every day you are going to add years to your life. And by walking 30 minutes a day you are also going to halve your risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, depression and Alzheimer’s disease,” he says.

“If you add another 15 minutes to that and walk for 45 minutes every day, you will also halve your chance of catching the common cold, because exercise has a beneficial effect on the immune

“The key message is that you should walk as much as you can – even if you can’t do 45 minutes a day, you are going to get benefit from every minute you walk,” says Professor Derman.

“You don’t have to powerwalk to get these benefits, but you do have to move at a brisk pace that will make you sweat if you walk for longer than 10 minutes. You have to exercise moderately. You should still be able to talk to someone walking next to you, but you should not be too out of breath to.

“Walking is not only good for your health, but it is free and easily accessible to most people. And if you were thinking of using the winter weather as an excuse not to go walking, think again.

“If it is too cold or raining, go to the mall and walk it out there,” Professor Derman advises.