There is a city in China called Bapan Village, which is also known as Longevity Village. Many people in this village are known to have lived long past 100 years old.
American researchers have interviewed residents of this village and learned about their interesting lifestyle habits. Their diet is very high in vegetable content, and they eat vegetables with all three meals of the day. More remarkable is that people are outdoors engaging in physical activity throughout the day, regardless of their age.
A study done in Taiwan showed people who are physically active at least 15 minutes per day, can add on average an extra three years to their life. In contrast, when looking at American lifestyle habits, we have learned that prolonged time spent sitting leads to more health problems and reduced longevity. A famous study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002 confirmed significant health benefits associated with walking on a daily basis. Some reasons researchers found is walking can lead to improved health outcomes, such as improvements in cholesterol and what is referred to as improved insulin sensitivity. In addition, having a regular routine of walking can lead to improvements in blood pressure and blood sugar.
Going for regular walks is one of the easiest methods to promote good health. One does not have to join a health club and one does not need any special exercise equipment, other than having a good pair of walking shoes. A rule of thumb is to walk for a minimum of 30 minutes per day five or more days of the week. If you walk with a friend, a neighbor or a spouse, that interaction can lead to improved feelings of being socially connected and can also improve your mood.
As mentioned above, walking can improve one’s sensitivity to insulin, which can reduce belly fat, by burning extra calories. Walking can reduce the risk of developing diabetes, or, if one is diabetic, it can improve one’s level of blood sugar control. The risk of developing cardiovascular disease can be reduced by 30 percent in people who walk on a regular basis compared to people who are sedentary, a statistic based on the above cited research from the New England Journal of Medicine. Additional benefits of being a regular walker include reducing varicose veins and improving bowel regularity.
According to Thomas Jefferson: “Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.” I hope to see you on the walking trail.
Dr. Mark Roth writes about internal medicine for the Cleveland Jewish News. He is an internal medicine physician with University Hospitals.