Brisk and reward; Getting enough exercise can be a chore but it's vital for losing weight as well as living a long life. The gym can be expensive and boring but MARIA CROCE finds walking is a cheap and easy alternative.
IT'S being hailed as the best way to keep in shape - and it doesn't cost a penny.
Research from the London School of Economics has revealed you're more likely to lose weight from a brisk 30-minute daily walk than going to the gym.
Dr Grace Lordan, a specialist in health economics who led the research due to be published in the journal Risk Analysis, found results were particularly pronounced in women, people over 50 and those on low incomes.
She discovered you're more likely to have a lower weight if you go for a regular high-impact walk compared with other vigorous activities such as working out at the gym, running or cycling.
Dr Lordan thinks the results are down to the fact that walking is easier and cheaper for people to do - so they're more likely to keep it up.
She said: "You need time to go to the gym, whereas when it comes to walking, you go out and turn right in your neighbourhood.
"The next thing is the cost. What usually happens when people join the gym is they go for a while and then it will trickle off and then they cancel their membership because they're not actually going.
"But when it comes to walking, you can opt in and out at any time."
For walking to be beneficial, you need to make it brisk.
She said: "It needs to be that your face is red and you're perspiring gently, you're almost out of breath and almost struggling to talk to the person next to you.
"It isn't about going for a lazy stroll in the park, you need to be getting your breath up.
"With walking, it's easier for us to know that we're doing it vigorously because we can see those signs. Whereas in the gym, some of the exercises people are being told to do, you probably do need professional support to do them correctly. So it's more difficult to reach this moderate-to-vigorous level of activity where we're perspiring and almost out of breath.
"I think people who are going to the gym often misjudge that they're meeting that criteria."
She believes there are ways to work a brisk 30-minute walk into your routine, whether it's on your way to or from work by picking a different station or bus stop or during your lunch break.
"Make small changes like that and if you're walking fast enough, you will see yourself using your breath and perspiring gently. The train station I use is a 30-minute brisk walk away and I do that every single day.
"It's a way to clear my head at the end of the day and when I go home, I jump in the shower. For other people it might be getting up an hour earlier before a shower.
"We do all have to try to fit in more exercise into our lifestyles.
ADVICE Dr Grace Lordan "There's hard evidence that shows it helps with blood pressure and lowers the risk of heart disease.
"People who engage in moderate activity do have better moods and better mental health.
"We have to make a little more time in the day for that. And I think walking is the easiest activity to fit into any day."
Women and those over 50 stood out in the research. Dr Lordan said: "We found in our research the women who walk have much lower BMIs in comparison to men who walk.
"And we believe that's because when it comes to walking, women fit much more into their hectic schedule of balancing working and home life in comparison to men who are probably doing less of the housework.
"Walking is something that we know when we're pushing ourselves to our limits is much easier than doing something in the gym.
Individuals over 50 who engage in brisk walking had lower BMI than those who engage in going to the gym.
"People tend to exaggerate the times they're in the gym."
An Age Scotland spokeswoman said: "As an organisation, we have always been strong proponents of encouraging people to lead active lives. The important thing is that you partake in an activity that helps to raise your heart rate for 30 minutes a day.
"However you choose to do that should best reflect your personal situation and abilities."
IT'S not hard to fit a brisk 30-minute walk into your day. ? Pick somewhere further away to walk to during your lunch hour to pick up a sandwich then walk briskly there and back. ? Get up an hour earlier to fit in your walk before having a shower. ? Give yourself a 30-minute walk to a train or bus stop. ? Leave the car behind to fit in a 30-minute walk.
Dr Grace Lordan