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Walk and Live Longer?

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Updated June 14, 2014

Senior couple powerwalking
BreBa / Getty Images

The January 8, 1998 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine reports on the findings of the Honolulu Heart Study, a study of 8000 men. Over a 12-year period, the study found that walking just two miles a day cut the risk of death almost in half. The walkers' risk of death was especially lower from cancer. Those who walked infrequently were about 2 1/2 times more likely to die of cancer than were the two-mile-a-day men. These were men age 60 and above who appeared in good enough health to be able to walk. Those who did walk were less likely to die in the 12 years that followed.

Great Health Effects of Walking

Walking and other kinds of exercise probably protect the heart and circulatory system by raising HDL, the good cholesterol, and keeping weight down. Experts suspect it may help prevent cancer by beneficial effects on the immune system and hormone levels, among other things. Walking also contributes to "regularity" which in turn reduces the risk of colon cancer. Studies are in the works to see if walking helps prevent breast cancer. See my other articles on walking and disease prevention.

Water and exercise reduce colorectal cancer risk: Drink up and get moving, a study in Taiwan found 83% less colorectal cancer in men who exercise as opposed to sedentary men. They found no effect in women, but that may be because women in Taiwan are rarely sedentary as they do plenty of hard housework.

Moderate exercise benefits the heart: You don't have to feel the burn. Just 30 minutes a day of walking brings as much risk reduction for heart attack as a high-intensity exercise program, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 1999.

If an injury has you sidelined, visit the Sports Medicine site for advice. As usual with any advice seen on the web, check it against common sense and your own health care provider's advice.

Encourage the ones you love to get out and walk regularly so they will be around longer. Stay healthy and stay on the trail and you will be able to join our Senior Honor Roll.

How to Start Walking

Sources:

Amy A. Hakim, et. al. "Effects of Walking on Mortality among Nonsmoking Retired Men." New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 338:94-99, January 8, 1998, Number 2.

Tang R, Wang JY, Lo SK, Hsieh LL. "Physical activity, water intake and risk of colorectal cancer in Taiwan: a hospital-based case-control study. International Journal of Cancer. 1999 Aug 12;82(4):484-9.

Rozenn N. Lemaitre; David S. Siscovick; Trivellore E. Raghunathan; Sheila Weinmann; Patrick Arbogast; Dan-Yu Lin. "Leisure-Time Physical Activity and the Risk of Primary Cardiac Arrest." Archives of Internal Medicine, 1999; 159:686-690

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