An easy step towards a healthier life

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Written by Simon Barden
It sounds too good to be true. It’s been revealed that one of the secrets to a healthier and longer life could lie in what you do in your lunch break.

Last month the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released a new report on the impact of physical inactivity on the quality of life and longevity of the Australian population.

Crunching data from 2011, the report found that 2.6% of the total disease burden in Australia was due to physical inactivity. While this figure may not seem like much, when physical inactivity was coupled with overweight and obesity, the disease burden increased to 9% - a figure equal to that of tobacco smoking, the country’s leading risk factor for disease burden. In other words, the behaviour most likely to see your life cut short.

But in good news, the report also found that when it comes to physical inactivity it was relatively easy to reduce its impact. Quite simply, if everyone did an extra 15 minutes of brisk walking, 5 days each week, this would reduce disease burden due to physical inactivity by about 13%.

This amount could be achieved by taking a short power walk on your lunch break, or getting off the bus a few stops earlier. Better still, the report found if the walking duration doubled, so did the disease burden reduction.

Seven diseases were closely associated with physical inactivity, with diabetes topping the list, followed by bowel cancer, uterine cancer, dementia, breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. Modelling showed people of all ages would benefit from the 15 minute activity boost, but particularly those aged 65 and over who had the highest rates of many of these diseases.

So slip on some comfortable shoes and get moving. It may not be as exciting as the latest fitness craze, but walking is an easy step you can take towards a happier, healthier and longer life.

Three ways to get your 15 minute walk
  • Get out at lunch - Whether it’s to step out to get your lunch or get away from your desk after you’ve eaten, a 15 minute power walk in the middle of the day is a great way to take a break from the office and do wonders for your health.
  • Evening debrief - Grab the family or meet up with a friend and get out for a brisk walk around the neighbourhood after work. It’s a great chance to get active and process the events of the day.
  • A fast walk with fido - A recent study out of Sweden found dog owners lived longer and had lower rates of cardiovascular disease. One of the reasons was believed to be that dogs prompted owners to have a more active lifestyle. So get out for a 15 minute walk with your furry friend to reap the benefits!
First published in The Record
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