Nadine Baggott looks at the benefits of walking

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Want to know the secret to a longer, healthier life? According to the latest research, it really is a walkover – just make like the A-list, grab a pair of trainers and take steps to stay in shape. HELLO! beauty editor Nadine Baggott looks into the benefits of walking…

If you have ever claimed you are just too busy to get fit, cannot afford a gym membership or don't have the stamina, fitness levels or equipment to exercise, then those excuses won't wash any more. Because an extensive study has just proved that 20 minutes a day is all it takes to make a real difference to your long-term health – and the only thing you need is a pair of comfortable walking shoes.

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Kendall Jenner is often spotted hiking in Los Angeles

The Cambridge University study analysed data collected from more than 334,000 Europeans over a 12-year period, and found that 20 minutes of brisk walking a day reduced the risk of premature death by up to 30 per cent.

The researchers estimated that while obesity (having a BMI greater than 30) was responsible for 337,000 of the 9.2 million annual deaths in Europe, double this number of deaths were attributable to lack of exercise. They concluded that even a modest amount of daily activity could have a significant impact, particularly on people who were previously doing no exercise at all.

"This is a simple message: just a small amount of physical activity each day could have substantial health benefits for people who are physically inactive," said Professor Ulf Ekelund, who led the study. He also pointed out that, ultimately, we should view 20 minutes as the starting point of our daily exercise requirements.

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Lea Michele is also a big fan of hiking and has been spotted walking the trails at Runyon Canyon

The cost of staying still

It is certainly more than many Britons are currently doing. Government guidelines recommend taking 75 minutes of moderate exercise every week – this includes brisk walking, gardening, housework, riding a bike or taking the stairs.

However one study found that most of us barely manage to clock up 30 minutes of walking over the course of a week – instead relying on our cars to take us everywhere. And this collective lack of exercise comes at a heavy price, with sick pay, the burden on the NHS and the cost of premature death estimated to set the UK economy back £10billion a year.

If you are ready to tackle inactivity, walking is ideal, as it costs nothing and anyone can try it. "Walking is a great workout because it suits all ages and all fitness levels," says Joanna Hall, the fitness expert behind WalkActive, a simple fitness programme based on walking.

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Taylor Swift and Gigi Hadid walk together for company during their hikes

"So many people come to me and complain that they walk every day but don't see the benefits, and that is because they don't know how to do it the right way. If you walk correctly you can get fit and lose weight – if that's your goal. In 28 days you could lose up to 13lb. And in six weeks you can increase your fitness by 25 per cent and drop up to 14in off your body – all through walking."

She believes that power walking – a favoured exercise with Hollywood stars such as Lea Michele and Kate Upton and model Kendall Jenner – with the correct postural alignment is the way forward and can burn calories at around 300 an hour. Research has shown that it tones the very areas most women want to work on; legs, bum and tum.

"I notice that my clients lose weight and tone up their lower body, rather than losing weight from their bust line, which many aerobic workouts can do," Joanna says. "After two weeks of daily 30-minute walks you should start to notice changes in your shape."

Power up

To get the most from your walking workout, you need to master the power walk. Here's how:

1. Check your posture – keep your neck and spine straight and your shoulders back and down.

2. Pull your stomach in and lift your pelvis.

3. Your heel should hit the ground first, then roll through to your toe.

4. Take shorter steps – it is easier on the joints and will give you a better workout.

5. Gently swing your arms to propel you along.

6. You do not need to wiggle your hips or walk like a duck.

7. Switch from pavement to grass to burn off more calories; walking up hills and on sand uses double the calories, so you can keep up the good work on holiday at home and abroad.

To find out more about Joanna Hall's WalkActive programmes visit walkactive.co.uk

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