In early May 2011 I traveled to one of the most beautiful regions of the United States: New Mexico, the so-called Land of Enchantment, thanks to gorgeous desert mountain scenery and stunning sunsets.

I was here to speak to a gathering of fellow physicians about the health benefits of exercise – including walking. And I was able to take time to walk through the wonderful cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, which feature pedestrian-friendly trails, sidewalks, and roads that are often closed on weekends to accommodate local artists and farmers markets.

Here is some of what I told my colleagues about the remarkable health benefits of walking:

“Eating alone will not keep a man well; he must also take exercise. For food and exercise, while possessing opposite qualities work together to produce health. These are wise words, credited to none other than Hippocrates, who gave this advice in his book, Regimen in 400 B.C. Since then, multiple research studies have proven what Hippocrates already knew, that regular exercise is the best thing you can do for your health.

Exercise really is like a medication that can benefit your health in so many ways. We know that regular exercise lowers the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke. It has a dramatic effect in preventing and controlling diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and depression.

Beyond the proven direct health benefits, we also know that exercise is very important in helping you manage your weight and for your mood and sense of well being. All of us look and feel better when we exercise regularly. If we had a pill with even a fraction of the proven benefits of exercise, it would be the most widely prescribed and consumed drug ever.

And all it takes is moderate exercise, like a brisk 30 minute walk done 5 days each week or something equivalent. It’s time we all started prescribing the “exercise pill” to our patients and taking it ourselves if we are not already doing so!”