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In the news this week - walking, physical activity and health
Published: 31st August 2012
Three studies in the news this week highlight the links between physical activity like walking and good health even into old age, further underlining the importance of Walking for Health in helping people to become and stay active.
Reducing the risk of chronic diseases
Released earlier this week, a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine examined the patient data of 18,670 participants in the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study. This data was linked with the patients’ medical information in later life from ages 70 to 85. The study showed that when patients increased fitness levels in their middle age by 20%, they decreased their chances of developing chronic diseases – such as congestive heart failure, Alzheimer’s, and colon cancer – decades later by 20%.
Dr Jarett Berry, senior author of the study, said, “We’ve determined that being fit is not just delaying the inevitable, but it is actually lowering the onset of chronic disease in the final years of life.”
Reducing the risk of, and treating, high blood pressure
Meanwhile, another study, whose results were presented to the European Society of Cardiology Congress this week, showed that healthy behaviours such as exercising regularly, keeping weight down, drinking in moderation and eating plenty of vegetables can cut the chances of developing high blood pressure by two thirds.
The study also showed that the impact of these measures on hypertension (high blood pressure) was much bigger than expected and in some cases could even be just as effective a way to treat sufferers as prescribing drugs.
Professor Pekka Jousilahti, who presented the findings, said, “Even having one to three healthy lifestyle factors reduced the risk of hypertension remarkably. For example having two healthy lifestyle factors reduced the risk of hypertension by nearly 50% in men and by more than 30% in women. Even a relatively low amount of exercise could make a difference.”
Adding to life expectancy
Finally, in a study published yesterday in the British Medical Journal, researchers reported that being active and living a healthy lifestyle into your seventies can make a big difference to your life expectancy.
Academics at Sweden's Karolinska Institute analysed the lifestyles of 1,810 people over 75. The findings said that men with the healthiest lifestyles lived six years longer and women had five extra years. The study particularly identified that, of the leisure activities looked at, physical activity was most strongly associated with survival.
The report's authors said: "Our results suggest that encouraging favourable lifestyle behaviours even at advanced ages may enhance life expectancy."
Physical activity and Walking for Health
These findings add to the increasing body of evidence that demonstrates the vital importance of physical activity and the need for more support for those who are inactive to take up regular exercise, no matter what their age or abilities. Walking is easy, free and accessible to nearly everyone. It’s also an easy activity to start slowly and build up gradually, and is flexible enough to fit into today’s busy lifestyles.
Our schemes’ walks are already delivering the benefit of regular walking to over 75,000 participants around the country, but we want to continue to encourage those who do no, or very little, exercise to join our walks. Walking in a group provides not only the physical benefits of walking, but also offers the opportunity for social contact and support in getting active.
This research gives people even more reasons to get walking and keep active and Walking for Health can offer them the perfect place to make a start!
Find out more:
The Express: Take a walk to save your life
The Daily Mail: Healthy lifestyle 'just as good as drugs' for high blood pressure: Diet and exercise cut risk by two thirds
BBC News: Active pensioners ‘add six years’
British Medical Journal: Lifestyle, social factors, and survival after age 75: population based study