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Health Benefits of Walking

Greek physician, Hippocrates said: “Walking is a man’s best medicine,” and over 2000 years of medical and scientific research later his statement still holds pretty strong! Even celebrities like Brooke Shields, Katherine Heigl and Bethanny Frankel enjoy a good stroll and there are some amazing health benefits to stretching our legs.

According to researchers at the University of Cambridge, just two and a half hours of walking each week cuts your risk of premature death by a third! Sounds easy, right?! Shockingly, however, the Public Health England (PHE) has found that four out of ten middle-aged adults don’t manage a single ten-minute walk in a MONTH!

As it’s Walk to School month, why not ditch the car and enjoy an Autumnal stroll on the school run? Here are just some of the reasons you might feel better for it:

1. Improves your mood

Yep, that’s right, aside from providing a literal breath of fresh air a quick walk can help you feel happier! It may take a strong coffee in the morning to get you in the right mindset for the day, however, walking provides a zero-calorie way to boost your mood. Research suggests that regular walking modifies your nervous system so that you’ll experience a decrease in anger and anxiety. What’s more, when you make your walks social and go with a friend or family member. The interaction makes you feel connected to another person, which boosts your mood even further (we recommend leaving your phone at home!). Finally, walking outdoors exposes you to natural sunlight, which staves off Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression affecting people during winter time!

2. Walking fights dementia

Researchers in Canada monitored the lifestyles of a few adults who were at a higher risk of developing dementia for six months. Those who regularly took brisk strolls outside for 2-3 hours per week displayed heightened levels of brain function after the study was finished. This suggests that walking can improve your brain function!

3. It cuts cancer

A recent study of individuals who suffered from breast or bowel cancer suggested that walking can reduce the symptoms. Participants who regularly went on brisk walks were half as likely to pass away from their illness as those who didn’t exercise at all. Those who regularly walked were also less likely to see their disease progress to the next stage – we like those odds, don’t you?

4. Your clothes fit better

This one may seem obvious, but it’s of huge benefit to your overall health, so it’s well worth mentioning. Regular walking tones your muscles and improves your body’s response to insulin, which can help reduce belly fat. And, daily walking increases metabolism by burning extra calories and preventing muscle loss, particularly important as we get older.

5. It helps your heart

Walking is great for your heart, particularly due to it getting blood pumping around the body without putting undue strain on your cardiovascular system. Regular walking reduces the likelihood of nasty cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, heart failure, and heart disease, and the Stroke Association tell us that a 30-minute stroll can keep your blood pressure under control, reducing the risk of suffering a stroke by up to 27%.

6. You’ll feel less ‘backed up’

Regular walks can help the digestive process and reduce the symptoms of constipation! Not the most glamorous of benefits, but something worth noting! If you suffer from constipation, you are probably all too familiar with that heavy, “backed up” feeling that leaves you feeling bloated and sluggish. If this is the case, get ready to start thanking your morning walk for putting you back on the straight and narrow! A regular walking routine greatly improves gastric mobility and gets your digestive system moving along nicely.

These are just a few of the many benefits of taking regular walks, so put those shoes on, open the door and start the journey to your new healthy habit! You can thank us later!

Dr Seth Rankin is founder of London Doctors Clinic

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A Vision of Good Eye Health

Regular eye checks and a healthy lifestyle go hand in hand with healthy eyes, yet too often we overlook the health of our eyes until we start to experience vision problems. So what should we be doing to protect our eyes?

Optometrist Karen Sparrow at AXA PPP Healthcare has some tips:

Every year 12.5 million people who need a regular eye test fail to have one, says the RNIB, a national charity that supports blind and partially sighted people.
Yet eye health experts stress that regular eye tests are a vital means of detecting early signs of some of the main causes of severe sight loss, including wet AMD, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic eye disease and myopic degeneration.

In many cases, these conditions are treatable if detected early.

Optometrist Karen Sparrow says people should see an optometrist every two years, even if they don’t need glasses, “and more often if you wear glasses or you start having problems with your eyes”.

She points out that an eye examination doesn’t just check how well you can see, but also assesses the health of your eyes and whether there are any underlying health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
It’s especially important for people aged 60 and over to attend for regular eye checks, yet many fail to do so, notes the RNIB.

A survey commissioned by the charity in 2007 found that the main reason given by older people for not having an eye check in the past two years was that they were not having any problems with their eyes.
“This shows that older people lack awareness of their own potential health risk and make the incorrect assumption that it is safe to wait for sight loss symptoms before having an eye health check,” it warns.

Children’s eye health

Karen stresses that children need their eyes testing, too. “It’s important to take your child to see an optometrist for a full eye examination before they start pre-school at three to four years old, and certainly before they enter Year 1, particularly if other family members wear glasses or have eye problems.”
She points out that, as well as blurry vision and eye strain, some common childhood eye problems, such as amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (squint), are treatable if discovered at an early age.

While older children have their eyes tested like adults, using all the same tests, the optometrist will adapt tests for younger children, she explains.
“For younger children, particularly those who do not know their letters yet, the optometrist will simplify tests, often using shape-matching skills or tests that do not need a response from the child.”
She adds that eye tests are free through the NHS for children up to the age of 16.

How lifestyle affects eye health

Karen Sparrow also stresses the importance of a healthy diet to good eye health. She adds that certain fruits and vegetables containing lutein and zeaxanthin may help protect against some eye diseases, such as macula degeneration and cataracts, later in life.
Among foods that contain nutrients good for eyes, she says, are blueberries, spinach, broccoli, sweetcorn, orange and yellow peppers, kiwi fruit, grapes, oranges and mangoes.

Nutritionist at AXA PPP healthcare, Sarah Schenker adds that there is also strong evidence from various research studies linking the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E with good eye health.
“These vitamins help to maintain healthy cells and tissues in the eye,” she explains. “They can be found in many different sources of fruit and vegetables, as well as nuts, seeds, dairy products and eggs.”

Karen’s tips for everyday eye care

In addition to having regular eye checks and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, Karen outlines some other precautions we can take in our everyday lives to help keep our eyes in tip-top condition.

 VDU protection
Nowadays, we spend a lot of time on computers for leisure as well as for work, so it’s important to make sure you and your eyes are as comfortable as possible when using a VDU screen. Make sure you can see over the top of your screen when sitting comfortably at your desk, and take regular breaks – about five minutes every hour if you are using a computer for longer than 60 minutes at a time. We also tend to stare at the screen, which makes the eyes feel dry and gritty, so remember to blink (closing your eyes fully several times during an hour’s work) and to look out of the window or across the room every 20 minutes to rest the eyes. Your employer is responsible for your comfort if you are working with VDUs regularly and will have a policy for eye testing its employees.

Keep it clean
Many people wear contact lenses to correct their vision, and nowadays most are fitted with disposable lenses that can be thrown away every month or – the height of convenience – every day. It is really important to follow the guidelines and instructions your optometrist or optician gives you, as most problems associated with contact lenses derive from poor cleaning or wearing the lenses too long. If you wear eye make-up with your contact lenses, always put your lenses into a clean eye and then put your make-up on. Hypoallergenic formulas are less likely to irritate your eyes and it’s best to avoid waterproof mascaras as, if particles get into your eye, they stick to your contact lens and irritate your eye.

 

For more information, visit AXA PPP healthcare

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