The pandemic turned people’s lives upside down: I have heard many people complain about too much work and too little rest. They say they are sleeping poorly, drinking more, eating worse. A good part stopped exercising. Everything seems so out of place that they don’t know where to start putting the house of health in order. Well, doctor José Roberto Lazzarini Neves and I have a suggestion: start walking.
“When a person starts doing a regular aerobic activity, such as walking, for at least 150 minutes a week, there is an increase in well-being that serves as a stimulus for other changes. She begins to want to eat better, drink less, and sleep earlier. And she ends up sleeping better, getting less stressed and anxious.”
Lazzarini knows what he’s talking about: he specializes in Lifestyle Medicine, anthroposophy and integrative medicine. And an important part of your job is to help people adopt healthy habits to prevent disease and live better.
Did you know that between four to five million deaths a year could be avoided if the planet’s population were more active? There are dozens of studies proving the importance of regular physical activity: it reduces mortality from all causes, deaths from cardiovascular disease, reduces the incidence of hypertension, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer.
Putting more movement into everyday life combats insomnia, improves mental health (reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression) and cognitive health (stimulates neuron production, improves thinking and memory, and lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s). It also helps to lose excess weight — another side effect of the pandemic.
“There is scientific evidence that health as a whole improves with regular physical activity. It has the power to mobilize our will: it helps us to turn the key, to get out of that stagnation of eating, drinking and staying on the internet or watching TV, and encourages us to pursue healthy activities”, says Lazzarini.
“And the opposite is also true: sedentary lifestyle is a strong risk factor for metabolic and cardiorespiratory diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol and heart failure.” Sitting for a long time is so harmful to health that it gave rise to the term sitting is the new smoking (sitting is the new cigarette, in free translation). Research links prolonged periods in the chair with an increased risk including premature death.
How many hours of your day do you spend sitting, working, in front of your computer or TV? Did you know that by exchanging two hours of sitting for the same time standing, you improve blood sugar, fat and cholesterol levels? When I discovered this, I started doing most of my phone conversations standing up. Even in meetings with friends, I avoid sitting for a long time.
Recent studies have focused the spotlight on the importance of NEAT: Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, meaning spontaneous or unscheduled physical activities — such as climbing stairs and walking to the bakery — for cardiovascular health and longevity. One of these studies revealed that replacing 1 hour of sitting with 1 hour of walking reduces the risk of heart disease and cardiovascular problems by 20%.
All this information is quite a stimulus to start moving more. For those who are stationary, the daily walk is a great option: it can be done anywhere and by any healthy person. Just a pair of sneakers.
Recent guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend 150 to 300 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per week. Give just over 20 minutes a day, or 30 minutes of walking five days a week. Shall we fit into the schedule?