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College of Human Ecology

Walk Kansas program promotes benefits of exercise, nutrition

Thursday, June 28, 2007

MANHATTAN, Kan. - It is estimated that 60 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, a health problem that research shows is directly related to such diseases as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, said Mike Bradshaw, Kansas State University Research and Extension health and safety specialist.

Since 2002, the Walk Kansas program, sponsored by Kansas State University Research and Extension, has been working to educate Kansans about the importance of healthy living and physical activity.

This year, more than 20,000 Kansans participated in the eight-week program, which is aimed at increasing physical activity levels and fruit and vegetable consumption among Kansans.

The goal of the program is for teams of six to collectively walk 423 miles, equivalent to the distance across Kansas on Interstate 70.

Walk Kansas encourages people to exercise with family, friends, neighbors or coworkers who have similar interests, said Bradshaw, who also is the Walk Kansas program director.

Research shows that 30 or more minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week can help reduce stress; lower blood pressure; aid in weight management or loss; and help reduce the risk of developing such diseases as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and
some cancers.

Being physically active has numerous other health benefits and is the key to maintaining, managing and preventing several health problems, including:

    Weight Control: Exercise burns calories, increases metabolism and increases a person´s fat-burning enzymes so that they burn more unwanted calories and fat - even while at rest. Increased physical activity is recommended for those who want to lose or maintain weight. Weight loss can be achieved by engaging in at least 60 to 90 minutes of moderate physical activity each day on most days of the week.

    Heart Disease: Physical activity can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Brisk walking for three or more hours a week can reduce a person´s risk of suffering a heart attack by 30 to 40 percent, said Bradshaw. Individuals can also participate in lower- intensity activities on a more frequent basis, such as walking and gardening to get a similar health benefit.

    Arthritis: Many people who engage regularly in light aerobics, resistance training, and flexibility exercises can help ease joint pain associated with arthritis by maintaining muscle strength, joint structure and joint function.

    Type II Diabetes: Maintaining a healthy weight decreases a person´s risk of developing Type II diabetes. Losing just 10 to 20 pounds could be enough to control diabetes. Overweight people have excessive insulin that is not used by the cells and can cause increased fat storage in the body. About 20.8 million children and adults in the United States, or 7 percent of the population, have diabetes and nearly one-third of them are unaware that they have the disease, Bradshaw said.

    Cholesterol: Regular exercise can significantly improve blood cholesterol levels in most people. Unlike diabetes patients, however, weight loss does not have to be achieved in order to gain results. Exercise can help lower low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol, while it increased high-density lipoproteins (HDL), or "good" cholesterol.

    High Blood Pressure: Excess weight is one of the most common factors associated with high blood pressure, which in turn, creates added stress on the heart and lungs, forcing them to work harder. Regular physical activity and a sensible diet will help people lose weight and lower blood pressure.

    Osteoporosis: Engaging in regular weight bearing exercises can increase muscle strength and bone density, ultimately slowing bone deterioration and preventing serious injury from falls.

"Traditionally, people used to get sufficient amounts of exercise with their work, but today´s jobs are not nearly as labor intensive and so people don´t need to consume nearly as many calories as they used to either," Bradshaw said. "We could gain control of our tendency to gain weight by burning an extra 2,000 calories per week through physical activity."

A person who weighs 150 pounds can burn about 100 calories by walking a mile and about 110 calories during a brisk walk at a speed of about four mph, he said. Being physically active and getting enough exercise each day can encompass any type of activity from gardening to bicycling, or even taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It´s important to choose an activity that´s enjoyable and to remember that significant health improvements can be obtained just by making small lifestyle changes.

Story by:
Leah Bond, lbond@ksu.edu, K-State Research and Extension, http://www.oznet.ksu.edu

For more information: Mike Bradshaw is at 785-532-1942.

This article was posted on Thursday, June 28, 2007, and is filed under College News.