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Why a Cleveland doctor says you should be walking more -- even when it's cold outside

We're teaming up with Al Roker and NBC's 'Today' for a special health segment.

CLEVELAND — Are you sitting on your couch reading this right now? You'll want to slap on your sneakers and head outside for a walk once you're done digesting this story. 

"Walking, in my opinion, is probably the number one therapeutic intervention, or the number one recommendation that I can give to my patients that can do all of the above without any major side effects."

Those are the words of Dr. Roy Buchinsky, the Director of Wellness at University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center. We talked with him about why walking is so healthy -- even when it's cold outside.

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"Interestingly, walking in the cold also has been shown to increase the amount of brown fat in our body vs. white fat," Dr. Buchinsky says. "There are two kinds of fat. White fat and brown fat, and supposedly, when you’re out in the cold temperatures you get a more use of your brown fat. That actually burns more calories."

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He says taking a cold-weather walk can also make a difference on how your body responds.

"When you work out in the cold, your body is trying to preserve your internal core body temperature. So in order to do that, your heart has to work a little bit harder to get the blood supply going to those organs in your body and to keep your body warm. It actually increases the efficiency and the effectiveness of your cardiovascular system. By pumping more blood throughout your body to keep it warm, you’re actually increasing the circulation to your brain.”

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His suggestion? Start low and go slow, increasing your walking activity by about 10 percent each week.

"You don’t have to start walking for 30 minutes at one time," he explains. "In fact, you can divide it up. You can go for what I call a little 'snacks of walking' or 'snacks of exercise' where you go for a 5-10 minute walk, preferably, at a time."

The walking conversation was primarily sparked in partnership with Al Roker and NBC's Today. Roker will be walking to work Friday morning as Today launches the "Take a walk with Today" challenge.

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