The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges sounds a very grand and ancient body. It is easy to imagine them processing in gowns and congratulating one another. In fact it is a very radical organisation bringing together all of the Royal Colleges, for example physicians and surgeons, pathologists and radiologists, psychiatrists and general practitioners. They are very focused on the future not as so many professional organisations on the glories of the past.

They introduced a report in February 2015 with the marvellous title of “Exercise – The Medical Cure.” In this report they emphasised not only how important physical activity was for preventing disease and helping people with long term conditions, both physical and psychological. They also “put their hands up”, to use that dreadful phrase adopted from footballing, to admit that they were in the wrong, and that the medical profession had completely overlooked the benefits of physical activity for the last century. They emphasised also the fact that the British Heart Foundation’s survey of physical activity showed that as we increase in age we become less active and this is nothing to do, for most people, with the effects of ageing or blamed on disease it is our choice of lifestyle. We spend too much time sitting or as it is called officially “in sedentary behaviour.”

Becoming more active can reduce the risk of many common conditions, notably heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, some cancers and depression. In the weeks to come we will describe the beneficial effects of physical activity on many long term conditions but our focus today is on how exercise can help you become an even springier chicken but what kind of exercise is best?

The approach I have adopted for years is Walking Plus. Namely Walking PLUS ten minutes a day of exercises to improve Strength, Suppleness and Skill.

Walking is itself a miracle cure. The common recommendation is for thirty minutes extra a day whatever your lifestyle. Don’t worry too much about the magic ten thousand steps just ask yourself could I change my lifestyle in a way which would allow me to get an extra three thousand steps a day. These steps can be measured with some of the tools that are available through the Spring Chicken website but a simple way to think of it is that ten minutes equals a thousand steps so if can you walk for thirty minutes you walk an extra 3000 steps each day, if necessary in three ten minute bouts one in the morning, one in the middle of the day and one in the evening.

Next week we will give you more information about the Plus exercises. Walking is great for stamina. You also need to think of strength in your upper body and core muscles, and about suppleness and skill but the evidence is clear, the top docs say it – exercise is a miracle cure and walking is one of the best of the miracle cures.

About the author: Professor Sir Muir Gray, CBE

Muir Gray consults for springchicken.co.uk, the lifestyle website for older adults.

He recently described himself (in a tweet) as the Don Quixote of the NHS: “tilting, always tilting.” As Chief Knowledge Officer of the NHS his job was defined by what he does—promoting improved care by the better use of evidence. Born, raised, and educated in Glasgow, he was a surgeon before he turned to public health in the 1970s. In the rest of his life he is developing Better Value Healthcare, whose mission is to publish handbooks and development programmes designed to get more value from health care resources in England, and worldwide.

Muir’s most recent book: Sod 70, the guide to living well is available here>>>. He is also the Director of the National Campaign for Walking, is married with two daughters and lives in Oxford.