Health & Fitness

Take Steps to a Healthier Holiday

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During the hours of the post-Thanksgiving gorge, a few activities are "the tradition". Some like to let their belt out a notch, sit on the couch and moan about how delicious dinner was and how much they overate. Others will just flat out fall asleep, not necessarily a good thing after eating all those calories.

The typical Thanksgiving meal is loaded with calories, fat and carbohydrates, a perfect recipe for sloth. But instead of joining the soon-to-be comatose set, how about gathering up family and friends and taking an after-dinner walk?

The first, and most obvious benefit of an after-dinner walk is that you'll burn off some of the calories you just inhaled.

A handy link on About.com. will show you just how many calories you consumed and how many steps you need to take to walk them off.

While you probably won't have the time (or the energy) to walk off all of the calories you consumed, some is better than none. Also, walking is a natural aid to digestion, so take a walk and help your body digest that massive meal.

Here are some other health benefits of walking:

Weight Management
Combined with healthy eating, physical activity is key to any plan for long-lasting weight control. Keeping your weight within healthy limits can lower your risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis.

Control Blood Pressure
Physical activity strengthens the heart so it can pump more blood with less effort and with less pressure on the arteries. Staying fit is just as effective as some medications in keeping down blood pressure levels.

Decrease Heart Attack Risk
Exercise such as brisk walking for three hours a week - or just a half-an-hour every day - is associated with a 30 to 40 percent lower risk of heart disease in women. (Based on the 20-year Nurses' Health Study of 72,000 female nurses.)

Reduce "Bad" Cholesterol
Physical activity helps reduce low-density lipoproteins (LDL or "bad" cholesterol) in the blood, which can cause plaque buildup along the artery walls - a major cause of heart attacks.

Lower Risk of Stroke
Regular, moderate exercise equivalent to brisk walking for an hour a day, five days a week, can cut the risk of stroke in half, according to a Harvard study of more than 11,000 men.

Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer and Type 2 Diabetes
The Nurses' Health Study also links regular activity to risk reductions for both these diseases. In another study, people at high risk of diabetes cut their risk in half by combining consistent exercise like walking with lower fat intake and a 5 to 7 percent weight loss.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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