(Here I am on a charity walk with my good friend Tom Hudson in November 2021)

At Primal Living we aspire to help you unlock your health potential and are driven by assisting you in living healthier for longer! One of the ways we believe you can achieve this (alongside eating real foods and getting the best vitamins and minerals you can) is to get the appropriate exercise. We know many people get scared when they hear about the need to exercise and believe they can’t get to the gym or don’t have the time. In this blog we will discuss how going from minimal/no exercise to getting out and just walking can have huge health benefits. For example, my good friend Dr Shan Hussain told me about a study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in 2015, showed that 25 minutes of brisk walking a day could add up to seven years to your life and halve the risk of dying from a heart attack. 

If 25 minutes a day currently sounds too challenging, Public Health England suggests that there are huge benefits to be gained from just 10 minutes brisk walking per day (article below). 

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/639030/Health_benefits_of_10_mins_brisk_walking_evidence_summary.pdf

They suggest that just 10 minutes per day could help with:

  • High blood pressure – Through a reduction in resting blood pressure associated with a reduced risk of death from stroke and coronary heart disease 
  • Diabetes – Due to increased insulin sensitivity 
  • Being over-weight or obese – By increased energy expenditure and increased metabolism 
  • Mild to moderate depression or anxiety – Through improved mood 
  • Musculoskeletal issues, such as lower back pain – By a reduction in inflammation and pain 

The key point is if you are living a fairly sedentary lifestyle right now, just get started on making a change. Even if it’s just a few minutes a day, that eventually leads to more, it’s the starting that counts.

Physical activity – Our nation’s current state of play

James Cracknell, who won two Olympic gold medals, is now driven by trying to get the nation healthy, he recently shared the following comments and statistics with me..  

The fact is that if physical activity were a drug then the range of its benefits on mental wellbeing, mental illness, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis is such that no politician would dare withhold those benefits from the public. Physical inactivity is one of the most important public health problems of the 21st century.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) have reported that: Inactivity is the 4th leading cause of death globally and one of the major health threats affecting developed countries.

UK Govt say that – the country is less physically active than any time “in all human history”

  • 20% of adults walk for 20 minutes (in one continuous period) just once a year or less.
  • 2013 figures show 39% of men and 29% of women fail to meet the 2.5hrs recommended level of exercise per week but watch 27.5hrs TV per week. It’s worth mentioning that these figures are probably unreliable if they are relying on self-monitoring. We all exaggerate how much we move without realising, sometimes we lie, or we’re just embarrassed to accurately state how much we move. When measured objectively these percentages fall to just 5%.
  • Walking trips decreased by 30% between 1995 and 2013.
  • Over the last 50 years, we know that physical activity levels have gone down by 20% in the UK and experts are predicting a further drop of 15% by 2030.
  • By 2030, the average Brit will be so inactive that they will use only 25% more energy than if they spent the whole day sleeping.

The dangers of a sedentary lifestyle

Although you may have (or be working towards) a great diet and be getting in your vitamins, not exercising could be harmful to your overall health. In modern culture, more and more of our hobbies are done from sitting on our sofa such as using our phones or binge-watching TV. Additionally, even at work many of our jobs require us to sit at our desk for hours. 

Unfortunately, there are many drawbacks to living this lifestyle such as those seen in this graphic:

A MARS a day may help you work, rest and play 

Now that you have seen the risks of a sedentary lifestyle you may be interested in making changes to your own lifestyle. What you should desire is to be fit, but not at the expense of your health. The basic principle is some is better than none. MARS is a concept developed by Health Results Ltd, the UK’s premier Preventative Healthcare company. Don’t panic, it is not the MARS you might be thinking of, but an approach to exercise. It is an acronym which is broken down into four key areas:

Move More

Put simply, in Great Britain we don’t move enough. You should always aim to move your body in some way for 1-2 minutes every 1-2 hours. 

Aerobic

What does aerobic mean – with oxygen. It is often referred to as “cardio”.

A brisk walk is aerobic.  The government recommend we get approximately 150 minutes each week of physical activity that gets you breathless. Ideally spread throughout the week. 

Resistance

Challenge your big muscles once or twice a week. Just a few minutes challenging your big muscles is beneficial. By doing some resistance, you increase your bone density, but most importantly - increase both insulin sensitivity and metabolically efficiency.

Stance

To protect us as we age, we should look to improve our balance, co-ordination, and posture.

MARS is not about laborious hours on a treadmill or exercise bike, nor is it about attending the latest craze in keep-fit classes. Our distant ancestors didn’t jog for hours on end, nor did they take part in endurance cycle events (after all, the wheel hadn’t been invented throughout most of human evolution!) In this blog we are focusing on the aerobic section of MARS.

Why the focus on walking?

Even 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates - the father of Western medicine - told us, “Walking is man’s best medicine”. 

Walking has many benefits such as reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, and can help manage high blood pressure, muscular pain and diabetes. It's also extremely kind to our joints and easy to add to your daily routine!

You can go for a short walk during your lunch break, take your dog out for a walk or even grab some headphones and listen to a podcast on the move (we even have a great selection of podcasts available on our Primal Living YouTube channel if you are interested). Small changes to your daily routine such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or leaving the car behind for a short trip to the local shops can make a big difference to your health. 

My good friend Sir Richard Branson likes to get dropped off a mile or so from a meeting and walk. He will also often hold meetings with his directors while walking. Richard is patron of a charity my brother John and I started called The Colourful Life Foundation, and whenever we are with him it’s interesting to see how he rarely sits still; he is on his feet at every opportunity.

Feeling lethargic? Walking helps to increase our blood flow which therefore increases our body’s ability to create energy. Therefore, going on a daily walk can in fact increase our energy levels during the day. Research from the university of Georgia found that those who walked just 20 minutes a day felt they had more energy and were overall less fatigued. 

Another benefit of walking each day is that it can help aide us sleeping better, as believe it or not, sleep and exercise go hand in hand. Walking regularly helps us to sleep better as it ensures burning off enough energy during the day. Getting enough sleep has benefits of its own such as helping to ward of cold and the flu which is especially important during the winter months.

Let’s get back to Public Health England’s advice, take a look at this great infographic:

In their report PHE go on to say, “The 150 minutes or more per week recommendation in guidance provides the level at which health benefits are achieved across a wide range of conditions for an achievable amount of time over a week. While 150 minutes or more is required to achieve the breadth of health benefits with emerging evidence of potential benefits associated with more than 100 conditions, such as prevention of Parkinson’s disease and management of severe mental illness, a reduced level of health benefits can be achieved through sessions of 10 minutes or more of at least moderate intensity activity. The UK CMOs suggested that this may be a level “sufficient to improve cardiovascular fitness and lessen some risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes”.

But what is a brisk walk? It is said to be walking at about 3 mph (so, walking 5km in 1 hour would achieve this). An individual can tell if they are walking briskly, or completing any other activity of moderate intensity, because they will breathe faster, experience an increase in heart rate and feel warmer. 

Hopefully, after reading this blog you have found that although as a society we are starting to live more sedentary lifestyles, it is important to get moving more. Even if it’s just a few minutes walking to begin with, it’s the starting that counts. This will allow you to work towards unlocking your health potential and live healthier for longer. Just a few lifestyle changes to implement a brisk walk into your lifestyle can have multiple health benefits and help change your life for the better!