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A vigorous half-hour walk five times a week beats running, swimming and the gym

Islamabad:  Put your best foot forward to get in shape. We evolved so that we could walk. We got up on our hind legs from our hands and knees four million years ago.

And every week we find new reasons to keep walking. My motto is – just walk!

It turns out walking briskly for half an hour is better than the gym for fitness and losing weight.

And doing it for five days a week is more effective than any other form of exercise for shedding the pounds, a study by researchers at the London School of Economics concluded.

Walking beat keep-fit activities such as running, swimming and working out at the gym, as long as people went quick enough to raise their heart rate and break out into a sweat.

Previous research has shown that walking can reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure , high cholesterol and diabetes even more effectively than running.

Dr Grace Lordan, who led the latest research at LSE, says it is hard to gauge whether exercise in a gym is steady enough. By contrast, calorie burning is heightened when walking because it is constant and uninterrupted.

Dr Lordan said: “When it comes to walking, you can’t really be doing it wrong. You need to be out of breath and slightly red in the face.”

Alternatively, the advantage may simply be that people are more likely to stick with walking as a long-term habit, she said.

Almost 50,000 people took part in the research. Men who walked briskly for 30 minutes, five days a week for four weeks, had a BMI that was one unit lower than average. For women, the difference was 1.8 units.

Activities compared with walking in the study were swimming, cycling, working out at a gym, dancing, running, jogging, football, rugby and squash, as well as doing sit-ups.

Walking with heavy shopping (don’t we all), scrubbing floors and heavy manual activities such as digging, felling trees, chopping wood and moving heavy loads, were all examined but nothing beat just plain old walking.

Dr Lordan wrote in the journal Risk Analysis: “Given the obesity epidemic and the fact that a large proportion of people in the United Kingdom are inactive, recommending that people walk briskly more often is a cheap and easy policy option.”