Walking is one of the best ways to enjoy outside while firming thighs, lifting the bum, that helps lower risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and depression. Research suggests every hour spent walking may add two hours to lifespans.
Aerobic doctrine has dominated exercise discussions and health since the 70s. Outdated no pain, no gains slogans hold that benefits of exercise depend upon working hard enough to boost the heart rate to 70-85% of maximum sustained for 20 to 60 minutes at least 3 times a week. Such intense workouts carry risk for injury, and discourage many.
Running is the poster boy for aerobics, that with preparation and precaution is great for health and fitness, but it is not the only way to exercise for health. Maybe seeing the sweat drenched, hard breathing runners counting pulse rates can make others assume less intensive exercise is a waste of time, but in fact that is far from the truth as moderate exercise is excellent for overall health; walking is the poster boy for moderate exercise.
Benefits of any exercise depends on 3 elements: duration, frequency, and intensity of exercises. Walking is less intensive than running, meaning longer periods of time are required or getting out more often to match the benefits of running. Current American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine standards suggest all able bodied adults to participate in moderate intensity exercise including brisk walking for at least 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week, or intense aerobic exercises including running for at least 20 minutes a day 3 days a week. One can mix and match to suit health, personal abilities and preferences, and daily schedules with walking, swimming, biking, gardening, dancing, golfing, whatever it is to keep/get the body moving. Add up all the things it takes to do most activities and walking just seems like the perfect anywhere, anytime, free, activity.
Literally hundreds of studies show the benefits of regular exercise on health. Walking has been shown to decrease risks of cardiovascular events by 31%, and decrease risks of dying by 32%, benefits which were equally robust in both sexes. Protection from risks was evident even at shorter distances of 5.5 miles per week at a casual pace of 2 miles per hour; subjects walking faster for longer distances had the greatest benefits.
Cardiovascular benefits are biologically plausible, as with all forms of regular moderate exercises walking improves cardiac factors such as blood pressure, obesity, cholesterol, mental stress, diabetes, respiratory disease, and vascular stiffness and inflammation. Should cardiac protection and lower death rate not be motivation enough walking can help to protect against dementia, peripheral artery disease, colon cancer, and erectile dysfunction.
Walking is not slow running, some speedwalkers can zip past joggers. At any speed walkers have one foot on the ground at all times, runners become entirely airborne at some point during each stride; what goes up must come down which is what makes running high impact, subjecting the body to stresses.
Walking on trails and streets is great for health as it gets the body outside, walking stairs can help up cardiopulmonary function, and can be twice as taxing as a brisk walk on the level, and 50% harder then walking on a steep incline or lifting weights. Even at slower paces climbing stairs will burn calories 3 times faster. A Harvard study showed men who averaged at least 8 flights of stairs a day enjoyed 33% lower mortality rates, men who walked 1.3 miles a day at a level incline had 22% lower mortality rates.
80 steps per minute represents a leisurely pace; 100 steps per minute represents a moderate pace; 120 steps per minute represents a fast pace. 12 average city blocks are one mile, and an average stride length can count approximately 2000 steps in about a mile, a pedometer can help better track progress.
Research shows that walking 7 hours spread throughout the week can help get 3-5 times the recommended amount of leisure time physical activity levels which can help to reduce risk of death by 39%. Achieving minimum recommended amounts of physical activity of at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise can lower risk of death by 31%, as published in JAMA International Medicine. Walking just 30 minutes a day has been shown to lower risk of premature death by 20%.
Ready, set, steady, walk your way to better health, happiness, well being, and longevity.