By Bunmi Sofola
If you want to stay young, don’t wait for a wonder drug—just go for a walk instead. A half-hour walk every day is as good as a ‘super-pill’ capable of combating age-related illness from diabetes to dementia, Britain’s biggest science conference heard. It also fights obesity, arthritis and cancer and helps lift depression. Dr. James Brown, an expert in ageing, said that while 30 minutes’ brisk walking a day may not seem like much, studies from around the world show it benefits all-round health.
Dr. Brown, a lecturer in health sciences at Birmingham’s Aston University, said: All of these changes are not seen in people that run marathons, they are not seen in people who lift weights in the gym or spend four hours running on the tread-mill, these are seen in people who walk, and who walk for half an hour a day.
You can get all these health benefits; you can get a reduction in all of these diseases that are associated with ageing, by just keeping active.’ Dr. Brown told the British Science Festival that maintaining muscle as we age is key to staying mobile and living an independent life. Not only is exercise the best way of keeping muscles from withering, it has many other benefits.
Delivering a round-up of existing research, he said: ‘Maintaining your muscle mass, maintaining your activity level, is really important. But there is no need to worry because it has all been sorted. There is a magic new super-pill. This super-pill will prevent obesity. It will also reduce deposits of bad fat. It prevents diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. This pill reduces the risk of, or delays, Alzheimer’s disease.
‘So if you give this pill to people with early stage Alzheimer’s disease, 50 per cent of the people who take this pill will have a reduced progression of the disease. It reduces the risk of some cancers, particularly cancer of the gut. It can increase mobility.’ He went on to say that regular walks can even treat depression. Dr. Brown said that 30 per cent of people with depression who take up walking for half an hour a day find their symptoms are improved. If the amount of time that patients spend walking is increased, the number who notice improvement reaches nearly 50 per cent.
He added: ‘It reduces anxiety in about 50 per cent of people and can improve levels of cognition. It can improve your ability to think and reason. It reduces arthritic pain in about 50 per cent of sufferers and can reduce hospital admissions in older women for hip fractures by 40 per cent. It gives you more energy and reduces fatigue levels, and if you tie all these things up together into one real subject area, it’s quality of life. If you give somebody a quality of life questionnaire three or six months later, their quality of life will have improved. We also see a 23-per cent lower risk of death. This isn’t a pill, it’s exercise.’