Why walking is your best medicine

Jon Warne

Around 400 BC the Ancient Greek Philosopher Hippocrates described walking as man’s best medicine. However, over the past decade there has been an alarming increase in physical inactivity within the western population with many experts declaring it to be the biggest health problem of the century.

The dangers of physical inactivity

The dangers of physical inactivity are quite alarming as it may:

  • Decrease cardiovascular (heart) health
  • Increase risk of high blood pressure and certain cancers
  • Contribute to anxiety and depression

Physical inactivity is also considered to be a greater risk to early death when compared to combining the individual risks of smoking, obesity and diabetes.

The benefits of physical activity

Regular physical activity helps keep all of the body’s systems running at an optimum. Some of the major benefits are as follows; improves heart health and efficiency; lowers cholesterol and blood pressure; increases bone and muscle strength; improves balance; decreases risk of dementia and type-2 diabetes. Importantly, it improves your quality of life as it increases energy, improves mood and helps you sleep better!

So how much do we need?

The current National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians recommends a minimum of 30 minutes (performed in at least 10 minutes bouts) with preference towards 45-60 minutes cumulatively daily of moderate intensity exercise.

Exercise intensity refers to how hard your body is working during an activity. Moderate intensity refers to a level where you are working hard enough to feel slightly short of breathe but could still have a conversation.

What type of physical activity is best?

The re-assuring thing about the significant benefits of exercise is that they are not based on performing marathons or high intensity sporting activities, but rather just plain old walking. The key to picking the right physical activity is choosing the one that appeals most to you as long as you keep to the principles of moderate intensity for a minimum of 30 minutes daily.

In the end, Hippocrates was right over two thousand years ago as walking is indeed man’s best medicine. Daily routines are getting busier and exercise often takes a back seat. However, an important question to think about: Can you limit your sitting and sleeping to just 23 and a half hours a day?


Khan. K (2009) Limiting our daily sitting/lying to just 23.5 hours: too ambitious? Br J Sports Med. 43: 79
Jansson. E & Anderssen. S (2010) General recommendations regarding physical activity (Chapter 2). Physical Activity in the prevention and Treatment of Disease: Swedish National institute of Public Health (2nd Ed). Retrieved from http://www.fhi.se/en/Publications/All-publications-in-english/Physical-Activity-in-the-Prevention-and-Treatment-of-Desease