Walking along the Potomac River with Greg – wherever we are in the world, we figure out a walk.

It’s happened again.

No sooner had I clicked send on my last email to you – demonstrating the strong link between eating whole grains and longevity – when this gem popped up in my news feed.

It seems that just when I submit my book manuscript, another study emerges that I hope I’m going to be able to get a chance to go back in and reference.

This time, the news is about how much impact you can have on your health simply by putting one food in front of the other for a few minutes each day.

Ah, the simple tools for creating a vibrant life: the synergistic strength of a whole foods plant-based diet with simple physical activity.

Forget about cutting 10,000 words from The Plant-Based Journey.  I need to add them. This just in.

Does a short daily walk trump your BMI when it comes to reducing health risk?

The study, published this week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed data from 334,161 European men and women who participated in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) Study.

They discovered that twice as many deaths may be attributable to lack of physical activity in comparison to the number of deaths attributable to obesity.

Apparently even a modest increase in physical activity can deliver significant health benefits.

We keep learning more about how too much sitting is hazardous to your health, and that physical inactivity has been consistently associated with an increased risk of diseases such as heart disease and cancer as well as being associated with an early death.

Yet putting specific numbers on the benefits of walking and simply sitting less is good news because it gives us specifics that we can sink our teeth into.

Happy run

20 minutes of walking a day

Looking at participants’ data over 12 years, they found that a daily 20-minute walk could reduce the risk of premature death by 16 to 30 percent.

To measure the link between physical inactivity and premature death, and its interaction with obesity, researchers analysed data spanning an average of 12 years.

Researchers discovered that the greatest reduction in risk of premature death occurred in the comparison between inactive and moderately inactive groups.

By combining activity at work – the kind of light activity similar to that expended with household chores –  with recreational activity, subjects were classified as inactive or moderately active.

The authors concluded that participating in physical activity equivalent to twenty minutes of  walking each day  would jump an individual from the inactive to moderately inactive group.

This resulted in the reported sixteen-to=thirty percent premature death risk reduction.

True, the greating impact was detected among subjects of normal weight, but even those with elevated BMI – body mass index – experienced benefit.

Rating a BMI greater than thirty as obese, researchers estimated that 337,000 of the 9.2 million deaths among European women and men were attributable to obesity, yet double this number of deaths (676,000) could be due to physical inactivity.

Can you be healthy at any size?

The risks of obesity as precursor to diabetes and other disease – not to mention quality of life with ease of getting around (being more physically active!) are always going to be important considerations.

But perhaps this news will add fresh inspiration to those discouraged about exercising while still struggling with weight.

It can only help to sit less and move more – not only for what it does for your brain inspiring physical confidence and boosting functionality of the command center of your brain – (see 5 minute willpower workout #1: Exercise, the closest thing to a willpower magic bullet)  – but because of its clear implications for living a longer life.

Exercise Rx

Lead research author  Ulf Ekelund from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge said,”This is a simple message: just a small amount of physical activity each day could have substantial health benefits for people who are physically inactive,” as reported in The Huffington Post.

How does twenty minutes of walking a day measure up against your current activity levels?

Even if broken into smaller bits of time in the form of intermittent exercise you will experience benefits.

Success is built on microchanges, one after another

If you aren’t already getting in a daily walk, start by making micro changes from your current level of activity.

From zero to an hour every day is a prescription for failure;  to progress from a walk or two a week to three times a week to seven days a week?  There’s a plan.  Here are some more tips:

  • Back build a plan for successful daily walking with whatever it is you need to make it happen:  appropriate footwear and clothing, and in a convenient place.
  • Get support with a walking buddy, an online group, or your faithful canine.
  • And tell me about your plan in comments below.  Taking a stand this way sets an intention – and intention needs to take place before you can have follow through.

I’ll start.

My body is completely hooked on a daily walk.  If I am stuck in an airplane, a snow storm, or some other similar obstruction, I feel the drop physically and mentally.  I’ve built the practice of putting one foot in front of another so consistently that it works for me.   My first order of business each morning, after my morning hot cuppa, is to lace up and meander through the woods.

How are you getting in regular walking?  Neighborhood?  Gym?  Or is your plan still pending?

Tell me about it – or your thoughts and plans about how to implement – in comments below.

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