Rite of Passeggiata: Walk the walk


I’m devastated to be leaving New Orleans where the jazz and food have been out of this world. I’ve had several fabulous meals and stop-offs for NOLA’s signature beignets, but fortunately haven’t felt too stodge-central as I walked the length and breadth of the city in between. This brings me to today’s topic – the benefits of incorporating short strolls throughout the day, particularly in the evening after dinner. The Italians call this fare una passeggiata and its attendant health benefits have been studied and go far beyond the gentle calorie burn you’d imagine.

The Italians do this several times a day, typically after each meal and use it as a time to reconnect with friends and family, decompress and capitalise on some fresh air.

A study of older adults at risk of diabetes published in the journal Diabetes Care in 2013 demonstrated that three 15 minute post-meal walks significantly improved their blood sugar levels over the following 24 hours. These short walks were found to be at least as effective as a 45 minute walk in one go, the thought of which might be daunting to some. A study published in the same journal in 2016 showed that interrupting prolonged episodes of sitting with “light-intensity walking or simple resistance exercises” improved blood sugar levels and cardiometabolic risk markers in adults with adult-onset diabetes… all in keeping with the ‘every little helps’ approach to exercise.

Walking is safe enough for (almost) everyone to do, costs next to nothing and has been shown to be sufficiently effective to stave off many chronic diseases, control weight and improve sleep, mental health and chronic pain disorders.

It has been shown that walkers who cover the same ground as runners enjoy equivalent reductions in blood pressure, ‘bad’ cholesterol and heart disease.

In August (2017), Public Health England published a report summarising the evidence of the health boosting effects of a 10 minute brisk daily walk which concluded that:

“Evidence has demonstrated the following health benefits from 10 minutes per day or 70- 90 minutes per week of brisk walking (or moderate intensity physical activity):

• increased physical fitness

• greater ease of performance of everyday physical activities

• improved mood

• improved quality of life

• increased body leanness and healthier weight

• 15% reduction in risk of early death”.

While the current UK (and Irish) recommendations  of a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week still stand, a daily 10 minute brisk walk is a great start for those who are sedentary.


UK Chief Medical Officers’ Guidelines 2011 – Start Active, Stay Active: http:bit/ly/startactive


For those still feeling uninspired, walking has also been shown to boost creativity. Stanford University researchers Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz asked a group to think up new ideas while sitting at a desk or walking on a treadmill at their own comfortable pace. The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learing, Memory and Cognition published the study, which found that students did better while walking than sitting.


Have a great week and if you’d like to read more, please visit skipthescript.com!



My name is Michelle and I’m a Dublin-based GP (family doctor). Life is short: take the minimalist approach to maximise your health!

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