Durham resident William Childress refers to his round belly as his basketball. He says it got its shape from years of doing nothing but "couch" work.
"I was a couch potato you might say," he said.
Now Childress walks at least thirty minutes a day nearly everyday at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in Durham. "I've lost ten, twelve, fifteen pounds," he said.
Ozetta Parker, another Durham resident, lost a dress size and has been able to come off of one of her medications for diabetes since she started a regular workout routine.
Her blood sugar levels are down as a result of exercising.
Both are proof of what researchers at Duke found after studying the effects of varying the intensity and amount of exercise over a six month period on certain men and women.
Clinical Researcher Johanna Johnson, the study's lead author, calls the findings exciting.
"What's exciting here, this population of folks who are sedentary, overweight and middle aged all that's needed is a 30-minute brisk walk around the neighborhood most days, six days a week."
Johnson says a simple walk after dinner will tremendously improve your health and reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome (MetS).A
bout a quarter of all U.S. adults have MetS, a cluster of risk factors associated with greater likelihood of developing heart disease, diabetes and stroke: large waist circumference, high blood pressure, high levels of triglycerides, low amounts of HDL, or "good" cholesterol, and high blood sugar. Patients with at least three of the five risk factors are diagnosed with MetS.
Johnson says working out harder did not help reduce the risk at the same rate.
"Folks who exercise at a vigorous intensity had to do a higher amount of exercise to see the same benefits," she said. Johnson found it encouraging that the results came without any dietary intervention.
In the inactive control group, the study found that not changing your diet or adding exercise caused study participants to gain about a pound and a half of an inch on their waist line.
"That's in six months," Johnson said. "Over ten years they would gain 20 pounds and 10 inches if they didn't change their habits."
Childress and Parker are glad they've changed their ways.
"Oh my gosh, I feel great," Parker said.
"I'm doing my best, my wife may not thinks so, but I'm trying," Parker said as he snickered.