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Walk This Way Toward A Healthier New Year

Taking a walkYou may have neither the time nor the means to hit the gym, but for the sake of your health, at least take a stroll on a regular basis!

This piece of advice is based on the findings of a recent study. The study, published recently in the online journal PLOS One, found that people who met or exceeded the American Heart Association’s recommendation of two and a half hours of exercise each week just by walking alone had a lower risk of death by stroke, diabetes and heart disease compared to those who walked less.

The study examined 42,000 people over a number of years, comparing mortality rates between those who walked enough to meet physical activity guidelines to the rates of those who did not.[1]

In a chicken-and-the-egg puzzler, the author of the study noted that the findings could be interpreted to mean that those who walk more tend to be healthier to begin with and thus more able to walk longer distances and with greater frequency in the first place. Therefore, he was careful to note that the study does not necessarily prove that walking leads to better health. However, the data did display a positive correlation between lower mortality rates and walking, with the implication that walking can do the body good.

Beyond the findings of this particular study, there is plenty of additional evidence that suggests walking has health benefits.  Several other studies have made a strong case for the benefits of walking, a number of which were specifically conducted to examine a possible link between walking and reduced mortality rates. Research from separate studies conducted between 1970 and 2007 found that walking was linked to a 31 percent lower risk of cardiovascular events. And that is not just the case with brisk speed walkers; better health results were evident in those who walked only 5.5 miles each week at a leisurely pace of 2 miles per hour.[2]

Just how beneficial walking is remains unknown.  What we do know is that walking is far superior to being idle. After all, the adverse health effects that stem from physical inactivity are on par with smoking.

What is encouraging about this study is that it shows that you don’t have to run a marathon every week in order to reap serious health benefits.  The perception that one must get their heart rate up past a certain level solely through aerobic exercise in order to gain any requisite benefit is false. Although regularly engaging in vigorous workouts is certainly great for your health,  simply getting up off the couch and doing some form of moderate exercise, such as going for a walk, can still make a whole world of difference.

[1] Bond, Allison. “When It Comes to Walking, More Is Better.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 25 Dec. 2013. Web. 03 Jan. 2014.

[2] “Walking: Your Steps to Health.” Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Medical School, Aug. 2009. Web. 03 Jan. 2014.

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Posted in: Fitness, Walking

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