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Walk your way to better health

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As a nation we now walk a third less than we used to, with almost half of us unwilling to make a 20-minute journey on foot. Despite this, a staggering 50% of us admit to worrying that we don't exercise enough.

Regardless of your age, ability or fitness levels, here are just five ways that 20 minutes of walking per day can improve your health

1. Walking keeps your weight in check

Walking is a great way to keep your weight in check and it's such an easy way to burn off excess calories, fat and sugar. It also aids digestion.

Rather than flopping down after a meal, go for a walk – even if it's just around the block. Exercise after a meal reduces the usual rise in blood glucose and fat levels that promote weight gain, furring up of the arteries and glucose intolerance.

2. Walking helps take care of your joints

"We tend to become less active with age, which can result in stiffness and degeneration of muscle and ligaments," explains a spokesperson from Arthritis UK. "As a result, your joints can feel uncomfortable and painful after exercise, and the less you feel like doing it again."

Research shows, however, that keeping joints on the move is one of the best ways to ease any discomfort. Daily activities such as walking, which put each joint through its full range of motion, are vital to keep them working effectively. Regular movement also helps to keep the muscles and ligaments that support and protect your joints supple.

3. Walking lowers your blood pressure

Exercise can be an excellent way to maintain a healthy blood pressure. "The right kind of exercise is a way to lower blood pressure," says Katharine Jenner from Blood Pressure UK. Aerobic activities such as walking, jogging, swimming and even gardening are best. Keep in mind that short bouts of intense activity, such as sprinting, can cause a sudden spike in blood pressure, straining the heart, and so should be avoided.

"Most people with high blood pressure can increase their physical activity safely," advises Jenner, but those concerned should speak to their GP first.

4. Walking helps protect your heart

"Your heart is a muscle and it needs physical activity to stay in good condition," advise the British Heart Foundation. According to a new study conducted at the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, California: "walking briskly can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running," which are all risk factors for heart disease.

5. Walking boosts your wellbeing

Research by Living Streets revealed that 36 per cent of people said going for a walk made them feel happier. A quarter said that a daily walk helped them to feel less stressed and more productive at work too, and 26 per cent added that they felt more relaxed with better concentration.

Moreover, walking increases your general wellbeing. Studies from California State University have revealed a correlation between the number of steps people take per day and a better mood with a decrease in age-related memory decline.

With walking being an activity that is so easily incorporated into your daily routine, what's not to like?

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