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The challenge to Move More

Wednesday 26 July 2017

How do you usually spend your hour-long lunch break? For a majority of working Brits, lunch breaks are usually spent being glued to their desks come wind, rain or shine.

Professor Rob Copeland of Sheffield Hallam University and Director of the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine is leading a city-wide initiative called Move More that aims to transform Sheffield into the most active city in the UK by 2020.

The National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine is a London 2012 Olympic legacy project that brings together researchers and a host of partners to try and create a culture of physical activity in the city. The project aims to make it easier for people to be physically active as part of everyday life, and enjoy all the health, social and economic benefits that brings.

Professor Copeland is now encouraging Sheffield to get outside and make time for walking by providing advice on the many health benefits brisk walking can bring.

Just 20 minutes of brisk walking per day can improve physical and mental wellbeing, helping prevent obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes as well as combat stress. Professor Copeland said: “If they could create a pill to prescribe to everyone to make them healthier, it would do exactly what brisk walking does."


A brisk walk will increase your heart rate and make it work harder to ensure blood and oxygen can get to all the parts of the body. A heart that works harder will eventually become stronger.

Professor Copeland says: “The heart is a muscle. If you train it by going for a brisk walk, it becomes more efficient. The potential benefits are huge, including lower blood pressure.”

Walking can also reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in your blood. This helps to reduce your risk of heart disease by helping to keep your arteries healthy and prevent the dangers of clogging.


One of the most obvious ways that walking can make you healthier is by helping you to lose weight.
Just walking briskly for 20 minutes can burn 100 calories, depending on your weight, and walking briskly for 45 minutes should be enough to make your body start burning fat reserves, which can speed up weight loss.

Professor Copeland says: “Walking also helps to improve insulin sensitivity and our ability to cope with sugar, which is another way to offset the risk of diabetes.”


Moderate exercise can increase the flow of blood to the skin, keeping your skin cells nourished and healthy looking. This also helps to remove waste products such as free radicals, which, over time can affect your skin as wrinkles, sagging, and roughness.


Bones and muscles both become stronger when muscles push and tug during weight bearing physical activity.

Professor Copeland says: “There is also a strong link between walking and reduction in musculoskeletal disorders, such as lower back pain, which is often a result of sitting down for long periods.” 


A study in the medical journal The Lancet in 2012 revealed that walking could cut the number of breast cancers by 18% and colon cancer by 19%.

This is because cancer can be caused by inflammation in the cells that make up our body. Walking helps to reduce that swelling and the resulting risk of disease.

Professor Copeland says: “Within the cells of your body you have mitochondria. They are like your little batteries. They are constantly being charged within your cells, ready to be used.

“If you are not active, that energy is not being used and that creates inflammation in the cell. We know that is the mechanism through which a lot of these diseases are caused.” 


Not only is walking good for your physical health, it also has benefits for your mental health and your mood too.

Walking releases the body’s feel-good hormones, known as endorphins, which make us feel healthier and happier.

Regular exercise also helps to control the amount of stress hormone cortisol that our body produces after exercise. For people who don’t regularly exercise, activity is perceived by the body as a stressor and therefore causes the release of cortisol. Through regular activity, this effect is decreased meaning that you have a better response to stress and require less cortisol release. This is important because if the amount of cortisol in your body remains too high for too long, it can affect your memory, lower your immunity and increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease.

Professor Copeland says: “We know one of the effects of stress is that it can make you look and feel older.

“Walking can reduce your cortisol levels, which can de-stress you, making you feel like you have more energy and feel younger.”

To find out more about how the Move More initiative is benefiting people in Sheffield visit here.

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