Next time you find yourself making excuses not to exercise. . .or tell yourself you’ll start exercising next week, or next month, or next summer. . .
Consider this first: You can reap enormous gains from very little exercise.
For example, just taking a quick walk can shrink inflammation and produce measurable health benefits. You can boost your health with the number of steps you take when you walk around the block.
A study at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine shows that just one 20-minute walk acts as instant anti-inflammatory medicine. The walk stimulates better functioning of the immune system and produces anti-inflammation responses at the cellular level.1
When you walk, you’re not just activating the muscles in your legs, you are calling your brain and sympathetic nervous system into action. The result: a faster heartbeat while you’re moving, a temporary elevation in blood pressure and the release of the hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine.
Those hormones trigger what are called adrenergic receptors in immune cells.
The researchers found that when 20 minutes of walking stimulated those receptors, the result was a five percent decrease in the production of what’s called TNF – an immune regulator that, unchecked, can increase inflammation.
But walking limits the inflammation that leads to immune cells attacking the body’s own tissues. And inflammation is behind a host of disease. . .
Chronic, 24/7 Inflammation is a Health Disaster
Short term inflammation, aimed at dealing with a wound or an infection, is a good thing. It’s important to understand that if a part of the body needs healing, inflammation speeds repair and stirs up needed activity of immune cells. And if the body is being attacked by viruses or bacteria, inflammatory activity wards off the invaders and keeps you from getting sick.
But chronic inflammation, when immune cells are overactive even though they aren’t needed, leads to chronic diseases like arthritis, Crohn’s disease and asthma. And studies show that heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes frequently involve chronic inflammation.
Take a Walk. . .
A study at Binghamton University in New York shows that you can significantly lower your risk of heart disease simply by walking almost daily.
In this test, 70 women walked 150 minutes a week for 10 weeks – about 21 minutes a day. About halfway through the study, the researchers challenged the women to up their walking by about 10 percent – another 15 minutes weekly – although it wasn’t required.
The results after two-and-a-half months showed that their risk for heart problems dropped. They generally weighed less, their blood pressure fell and their cholesterol profile improved.2
Even Two Walks a Week Make a Difference
If you feel like you’re too busy during the week to exercise, other research shows that merely walking on Saturday and Sunday improves your health.
In an eighteen-year study that tracked the exercise habits and health of more than 63,000 older adults, scientists found that when people crammed their 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week into two days — or did more strenuous exercise for 75 minutes during those two days – and didn’t engage in much physical activity on the other five days of the week — they lowered their risk of dying during the nearly two decades when the study was in progress. They significantly dropped their chances of cancer and heart problems.3
And that’s all it took. Two days of exercise a week. Very little activity the rest of the time.
So there you have it – no matter how hectic your schedule, you can squeeze in enough exercise to stay healthier. To get you started, maybe it will help if I tell you I practice what I preach.
I was one of the people who used to say I didn’t have time to exercise. Legitimately – I was (and am) extremely busy. Then I had a health scare and I realized I had to start taking a daily walk, no matter what. Since then, I’ve walked almost every day.
I wouldn’t miss it for the world. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of my day. For those days when the weather is bad, my backup is a stationary bicycle. But I hate the bike so much, I walk in almost any kind of weather.