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Can’t find time to get to the gym? Slip into your comfy shoes and take a 15 minute stroll after each meal. According to a new study from George Washington University, this habit can help normalize blood sugar levels for up to three hours after eating, and slash the risk of developing type 2 diabetes better than a sustained 45-minute walk.

In the study, scientists recruited healthy adults age 60 and older who were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes due to inactivity and high fasting blood sugar levels. Researchers found that three short post-meal walks, at an easy-to-moderate pace, were as effective as one 45 minute walk at regulating blood sugar over a 24 hour period. What's more, the post-meal walks were found to be more effective in normalizing blood sugar after meals - the "riskiest" time, when blood sugar spikes the most.

To reap the benefits yourself, try out these techniques:

  • Build a post-breakfast neighborhood walk into your morning routine
  • Spend the last 15 minutes of your lunch break walking, either indoors or outside
  • Recruit a family member or neighbor to join you in post-dinner walks 
  • If you have a canine family member, plan to walk your furry friend after meals whenever possible
  • Keep your walking gear, like shoes, a light jacket, and perhaps a flashlight, in a designated location so you can just ‘grab and go’
  • Try a new path or route around your neighborhood so your walks feel fun and ‘fresh’

For more about the benefits of walking, check out my previous post: Walking How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

As we age we gain wisdom, but each passing birthday also brings a progressive loss of muscle strength, muscle mass, and aerobic capacity. We’ve known for some time that strength training can help preserve, or even rebuild, muscle mass and strength, but now a new study shows that aerobic activities, like walking, swimming or biking, can also help.

Canadian scientists recruited over 70 men and women who were either inactive or highly active from three different age groups: 20-39; 40-64; and 65-86. Researchers put each group through a series of tests, and found that compared to the sedentary adults, those who regularly engaged in aerobic exercise performed better on evaluations of grip and muscle strength.

The take home message is: just get moving. While this study doesn’t mean strength training isn’t necessary, it does support the old “move it or lose it” principle, and demonstrates that regularly getting your heart rate up can help you hang onto muscle. And that can translate into a reduced risk of injuries, greater independence, and a dramatic improvement in quality of life.

If you’ve been inactive and you’re not sure where to start, consider putting on your walking shoes. Here are 10 reasons why I think it may just be the perfect form of exercise.

 

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I am a huge fan of walking. For numerous reasons, I believe it’s a perfect form of exercise (check out this post about the top 10 reasons to fall in love with walking). When I’m out there, moving my feet and swinging my arms, walking doesn’t feel like a chore. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Walking feels natural and, well, for lack of a better word, it just feels right!

Walking is also a no hassle form of exercise, because the only “equipment” it requires is a good pair of shoes. If you’re in the market for a new pair, the number of choices can be overwhelming. To streamline your options, consider this simple checklist:

Find the most comfortable fit for the length and width of your feet that accommodates your foot’s arch type.

Once you find a pair that feels comfy, make sure they give you enough cushioning and allow your feet flexibility and support at the same time.

Walk around the store. The heel should fit snugly without slipping as you walk, and the entire shoe should feel pliable.

Each time you take a step, your foot will “flex” as you roll from your heel to toe. If a shoe is too stiff, your foot won’t be able to bend properly, which can impede your walk.

Finally, always try on walking shoes after you’ve been walking a bit, when your feet are expanded; and wear the socks you'll use when walking for exercise.

Once you have them home, strategically place your shoes where you’ll notice them each day. Or, take them with you when you’re out and about. The ability to simply slip into my shoes and go is one of my favorite things about being a walker!

 

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I'm a former runner turned walker, and in my opinion, walking is the perfect exercise. Here are 10 reasons why I hope you'll fall in love with walking too:

10. Walking has been shown to boost your immune system, open up your circulation, and improve digestion, all of which play a role in preventing cancer.

9. Regular walks boost bone density, and protect against the loss of bone tissue as you age.

8. Walking lowers blood pressure, "bad" or lousy LDL cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.

7. Walking is versatile - you can walk alone, with your family, your dog, or with a friend.

6. All it takes is a good pair of shoes – no gym membership or special equipment needed.

5. You already know how. It's second nature - after all, you've been doing it since you were about one year old!

4. Walking improves mental and physical stamina. Instead of draining you, a brisk walk can actually help your energy level soar and boost your productivity.

3. A single walk can transform your body image. Research shows that all forms of exercise improve personal body satisfaction, even without weight loss. That means in one 30 minute walk, you can return home feeling entirely different in your own skin.

2. Research shows that when the same distance is covered, walking is just as effective as running for both health and weight control. In a Duke University study, runners and walkers lost nearly identical amounts of body weight, body fat, and belly fat.

1. It just feels good before, during, and after! Walking helps reduce stress, lessen feelings of depression and anxiety, improve sleep quality, and boost overall mood. Now that's powerful.

I love walking so much I devoted an entire chapter to it in S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings Drop Pounds and Lose Inches. Check it out to learn more about four other unique benefits, which are the reasons I'd walk even if there were zero health benefits, and walking didn't burn a single calorie.


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