Do you want to be healthy, happy and live longer? Walking is the answer.
‘Walking is the secret of your health’, says Dr William Bird, a pioneer of walking for Health in the UK. Dr Bird set up Health Walks and the Green Gym in the late 1990s while he was a GP in Oxfordshire, which are now expanded across the UK, Australia and Europe.
‘’Walking for 20 minutes a day could save 37,000 people a year from dying prematurely of cancer, heart disease and stroke, according to a report of Ramblers walking charity and Macmillan Cancer Support. Being physically active significantly reduces the risk of several major health conditions by between 20% and 60%, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, mental health, anxiety, depression, colon, breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease among others. Physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight, improves cholesterol levels, reduces blood pressure, builds healthy muscles and bones, improves balance and reduces the risk of falls, Dr Bird said at a Programme in Reading organised by the Greater Reading Nepalese Community Association (GRNCA).
Dr Bird, who was awarded MBE for his excellent service to the community by the Queen, set up ‘Intelligent Health in February 2010 with the vision of making a lasting difference to people’s health and wellbeing by supporting them to become more active.’ There are many benefits of walking, said Dr Bird, who has more than three decades of experience in practising medicine and knowledge of the need to develop preventive measures to stop people developing diabetes and COPD, adding just a brisk walking of 10 minutes a day has immense health benefits. As CEO and Founder of Intelligent Health, William developed the hugely successful Beat the Street programme which has encouraged more than 500,000 people across the world to get moving and improve their health.
He said ‘’the medical world needs to shift to a model of prevention, not just treatment.’’ He is absolutely right that the present pressure on NHS could not be resolved without alternative preventive model in health service when the number of patients has increased drastically due to unhealthy lifestyle.
NHS states ‘walking is simple, free, and one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier, walking briskly can help you build stamina, burn excess calories and make your heart healthier.’ ‘You don’t have to walk for hours. A brisk 10-minute daily walk has lots of health benefits and counts towards your recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise.’
“The challenge is to make politicians work for an environment that promotes walking, and to call on doctors to encourage patients to walk…” editorial in BMJ said in 2009. As a result, many GPs advise for walking, yoga and physical activities to be healthy.
According to Dr Bird “our bodies are meant to be active and we’re designed to be connected to nature. We’re hunter-gatherers and our bodies currently exist in an alien environment of being indoors all the time and living under artificial lights and so on. Owing to this, our bodies respond with chronic inflammation which leads to cancer and long-term illness.’’
Participating in physical activity in green spaces- green exercise brings additional mental and physical health benefits, which could form part of a solution to a number of growing and environmental problems, says Dr Jo Barton.
One in three people in the UK walk just 30 minutes a week, which is far below government guidelines of 150 minutes a week or 21 minutes a day.
‘’Only one in 20 people in England does enough moderate physical activity such as walking to get the health benefits’’, says the report.
The report states ‘’everyone in England did enough walking to meet recommended guidelines each year it could prevent 36,815 people dying prematurely, 294,730 cases of diabetes and save 12,061 people going to hospital for emergency treatment of coronary heart disease.’’
‘Inactive can take three to five years off your life and increase the chances of developing cancer, heart disease or having a stroke by 25-50 per cent,’ the report says.
Just a gentle walk not only saves life and reduces the pressure on NHS but also helps to be healthy and happy and live longer. ‘Walking is a simple, free way to exercise, lose weight and become healthier. You can easily build walks into a busy lifestyle as you can do it pretty much anywhere, at any time’, says Dr Eleanor Atkins of Bupa UK.