There’s no need to attempt a marathon from 6 to 9am to stay in shape, says Fish Hoek Doctor Frances le Roux. Walking is the best medicine.
“Studies have shown that walking has higher levels of adherence than other forms of physical activity, possibly because it is convenient and overcomes many of the commonly perceived barriers to physical activities: lack of fitness and lack of skill,” she says.
Walking improves joint support and takes oxygen and nutrients to joints, she says.
“If you don’t walk, the joints are deprived of life-giving fluid which can speed up deterioration. When we walk, we also improve our breathing rate, which causes oxygen to travel faster through the bloodstream.
“It eliminates waste products and improves energy. Various studies have shown that walking up hills and steps can create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance.”
Walking, she says, has the benefit of lightening the mood by encouraging the release of the feel good hormones, endorphins.
“The more steps you take, the better the mood. It also alleviates symptoms of depression and anxiety.”
Dr le Roux says a study of 6000 woman aged 65 and older, performed by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found age-related memory decline was lower in those who walked more.
She says walking is the most potent immune-enhancing activity, providing movement to the body while clearing the mind. But she cautions against over exercise, which causes stress on the immune system, resulting in higher than average colds, flu and poor recovery rates after heavy exercises.
She says research is showing that more than 90 minutes of high intensity endurance exercises can make athletes susceptible to illness for up to 72 hours after an exercise session.
“Currently, moderate activity is all you need.
“This will help to boost your immune system – the body’s defence against infections.”
In one study in the American Journal of Medicine, a woman who walked for half an hour once a day for one year had half the number of colds as those who didn’t exercise.
Regular walking leads to a higher number of white blood cells, which fight infections, says Dr Le Roux. “Research found that in a 65-year-old who did regular exercises the number of T-cells – a specific white blood cell – was as high as those of people in their thirties.”