Walking: Still the Best Medicine for Better Health and Fitness, Experts Agree

(ORIGINALLY PRINTED 2012 MARCH EDTION)

By DANIEL KATZ HEALTH & MEDICAL COLUMNIST

In searching for the one prescriptive panacea for the ails of mortal life, Hippocrates — an ancient Greek physician who is referred to as the father of Western Medicine — stated that “Walking is man’s best medicine.” Such a statement, despite being from one of medicine’s most prominent figures begs the skepticism of any astute reader: Really, walking, that’s your medical cure-all?  Out of the countless behaviors we can alter and control walking remains the best form of exercise and best health remedy! Not decreasing smoking, not losing weight, not eating a diet in proper alignment with the food wheel. Not even modern therapies, drugs or medical procedures, but walking.’

Hippocrates (460 BC-370 BC), an ancient Greek physician, is referred to as the father of Western Civilization medicine

 

Wisdom of Walking   Of course Hippocrates himself is anything but modern, being alive 460 BC to 370 BC. So why should we put any stock in the common sense tonics of this granddaddy of medicine who spoke in a time before the conception of the scientific method, medical imaging computers, and even before germ theory? Most of us would merely say, it was a good guess old man, walking surely can’t hurt, but how helpful can it be compared to the plethora of other options the modern man now has at his disposal?  As it turns out, there is much wisdom in this ancient Greek’s simple words. In fact, if you’re like many of us and trying to live a healthy, long and fulfilling life but are also loaded up with homework, classes, and a job, walking, or light exercise, might have the biggest positive impact on your life. (Of course, before undertaking any exercise program, consult first with your physician.)  In fact, positive health results are seen for a range of ailments after the person engages in light exercises and or the equivalent of simply walking for about 30 minutes a day.

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Short Walk Goes a Long Way for Better Health  According to Dr. Mike Evans, founder of the Health Design Lab at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, and Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of Toronto in a video called, “23 and ½ hours, What is the single best thing we can do for our health,”  light exercise can help to decrease pain from knee arthritis by 47%, severity of dementia by 50%, risk of diabetes deteriorating into other medical conditions by  58%, risk of hip fracture by postmenopausal women by 41%, anxiety related to stress by 47%, depression relief of up to 30%, and can even treat fatigue.  According to the Aerobic Center Longitudinal Study from the University of South Carolina, lack of exercise, or low fitness, is the strongest predictor of death, above even obesity, high blood pressure and even smoking. In fact the negative effects of low fitness have been calculated by Lennert Veermann, a researcher at the school of Population Health at the University of Queensland, who says that for every hour of television watched by an adult after age 25 equaled a 22 minute reduction of life expectancy.

Light Exercise: Add Years to your Life and Wellness   Stated another way by Dr. Evans, if you watch six hours of TV a day, you can expect to live five years less. And if you’re saying to yourself that six hours is an awful lot of television to watch in a day, Dr. Evans wants to stress that the average adult American spends five hours a day in front of a TV or other screen every day. So if you’re one of those people who spends long hours in front of a screen (such as a computer screen), a full workday sitting at a desk, or most of your time in the library studying for your next test, next time you think of your health you may want to start walking for better health and wellness.

For additional information on the benefits of walking, reference “The Osaka Health Survey” and see that for every 10 minutes of walking a day, there was a 12% reduction in high blood pressure. Furthermore, in one study of the use of stents versus exercise of 20 minutes a day, those who were given the exercise treatment had a 18% less heart incidence than those that received the expensive stent technique. And that is not including the fact that the medical procedure only affects one aspect of the heart while exercise presumable affects the entire body.  Walking is clearly something proactive all of us can do that has real, scientifically backed positive results. So rather than wait to get sick after a lifetime of not moving 24 hours a day, why not just get up for 30 minutes and exercise? It doesn’t even have to be strenuous; you just have to be active and move around for at least half an hour a day. And you will always have the other 23 hours and a half to sit around.

Hippocrates and the Hippocratic Oath

  In case you wondered…The Hippocratic Oath is an oath historically taken by physicians and other healthcare professionals swearing to practice medicine ethically. It is widely believed to have been written by Hippocrates, often regarded as the father of western medicine, or by one of his students.

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