Walk away this common culprit of illness

Well, that groundhog got scared of his own shadow last week. That means we can't come out of our annual hibernation just yet... because we're in for another six weeks of winter.

But just because it's not quite spring yet doesn't mean you get to sit on the couch until April.

Trust me: If you do that, you'll only feel worse.

Just getting your body moving can help stabilize blood sugar, build bone density, manage your weight, and keep your brain healthy.

And now, a new study shows that the simple task of walking can do something that most drugs can't do without risks: reduce inflammation.

Researchers at the UCSD School of Medicine found that people showed reduced levels of inflammation markers in their blood after walking briskly on a treadmill for just 20 minutes.

It has something to do with the hormones you secrete during exercise -- including adrenaline and norepinephrine -- that are able to reduce your body's inflammatory response. And that's something we can easily measure through bloodwork, by testing for a marker called TNF.

The TNF levels in the walkers in the study were reduced by as much as 5 percent -- and while that may not sound like a lot, we don't yet know how much those levels could be reduced if you were to walk 20 minutes (or more) every day for a week, a month, a year, or more.

If it's anything like a lot of other healthy activities, its effects are actually cumulative. Which means that once you start, you should stick with it.

Getting some exercise will also help you sleep better -- and lack of sleep is a common source of inflammation.

If you want to get a picture of your body's level of inflammation, you can ask your doctor to test your blood for the several markers of it (not just TNF). After all, it's better to know what's going on inside your body before it becomes a problem -- even if you don't show any signs of disease.

There's no doubt that inflammation -- even at low levels over the long term -- plays a role in a multitude of health conditions. Whether it's IBS... or psoriasis... or even depression... you can bet that there's inflammation at work.

And over the long term, inflammation can be deadly. It's been linked to killers like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer's.

So, you'll want to knock out that inflammation as much as possible.

But why stop with walking? Switch to the naturally anti-inflammatory Paleo diet, which can help you shed some pounds if you're carrying around extra weight (a situation that makes inflammation practically inevitable).

You can also supplement with some of the best anti-inflammatories out there -- including omega-3s, vitamin C, curcumin, resveratrol, and a good probiotic.

Just 20 minutes of walking may reduce inflammation in your body