How to get the most benefit from walking - Consumer Reports (2023)

Moving around by walking is as easy as lacing up your sneakers and hitting the sidewalk or path. This is a safe way to exercise without needing a gym membership, and it can improve your mental and physical health in several important ways.

“Walking is best exploredform of exercise, and multiple studies have proven it's the single best thing we can do to improve our overall health and increase our longevity and years of functioning," says Dr. Robert Sallis, General Practitioner and Sports Medicine Specialist at Kaiser Permanente.

don't giveScientific Report 2018For the Department of Health and Human Services, the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee found that walking is the most popular aerobic activity and has one of the lowest injury rates of any type of exercise.

It is aStudy 2019of more than 44,000 Canadians found that people who live in walkable neighborhoods had an overall lower risk of cardiovascular disease. That's one reason to champion local infrastructure that facilitates walking, says lead author Nicholas Howell, PhD, of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

In the short term, though, "even in less walkable neighborhoods, there are opportunities to be more active," says Howell. He suggests walking errands, parking further away from your destination, or getting off the bus a stop early. These little tweaks "can help schedule a few extra steps each day," says Howell. "And they all add up."

Here we explain what walking can do for you - and how you can maximize its many benefits.

Benefits of Walking

1. Lowest Body Mass Index (BMI):ANlearnfrom the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2017, confirms that those who walk more and sit less have a lower BMI, which is aObesity indicator. In the study, those who took 15,000 or more steps a day tended to have a BMI in the normal, healthy range.

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2. Lower blood pressure and cholesterol:DieNational Health Survey for Hikersfound that regular walking was associated with a 7% reduction in the risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

3. Lower your fasting blood sugar (glucose):Higherblood sugarLevels are a risk factor for diabetes, and the National Health Study of Hikers also found that hikers had a 12% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

4. Better memory and cognitive function:A study from 2021published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Diseasefound that when adults age 55 and older with mild cognitive impairment were given stretching and toning exercises or aerobic exercise—mainly walking—both groups showed some improvement on cognitive tests. But compared to the stretching and toning group, the fitness walking group improved their aerobic fitness more, reduced stiffness in the carotid arteries, and showed increased blood flow to the brain in ways that researchers believe, in the long term, they could provide more cognitive benefits. benefits.

ANclinical studyof older adults in Japan, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in 2015, found that men and women in a group of prescribed daily walking exercises had significantly more after 12 weeksmemory improvementsand executive functioning (the ability to give focused attention, switch between different tasks, and retain multiple items in working memory) compared with those in a control group who were told to simply go about their usual daily routine.

It is aStudy of 299 adults, published in the journal Neurology in 2010, found that walking was associated with greater volume of gray matter in the brain, a measure ofbrain health.

5. Less Stress and Improved Mood:Like other types of aerobic exercise, walking –especially outdoors in nature– stimulates the production of neurotransmitters in the brain (eg endorphins) that help to improve your mental state.

6. Longer service life:on areview of studiesResearchers published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity in 2014 found that walking about 3 hours a week was associated with an 11% lower risk of premature death than those with little or no activity.

And it's never too late to start reaping the benefits of walking: ALittle study from 2013in the journal Maturitas found that elderly people, with an average age of 80 years, who walked only four times a week were much less likely to die than those who walked less during the 10-year follow-up of the study.

walk for health

Experts agree that a lot of walking is good for you, but to get the most benefit from walking, you need to go a few miles and increase your intensity.

The minimum prescription for good health is 30 minutes of moderate walking five days a week. "More is better, but even with this moderate amount, you can reap a significant portion of the health benefits of walking," says Sallis.

Here are five research-backed ways to take more steps every day—and get the most out of every step.

1. Walk as much as possible.The University of Warwick study compared people with at least one sign of metabolic syndrome - a cluster of risk factors (high blood pressure, waist fat, high blood sugar andhigh triglycerides and cholesterol) for heart disease – with those without risk factors. They found that those who moved the least had more risk factors, and those who walked the most — at least 15,000 steps a day — had healthy BMIs, smaller waistlines, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and better glycemic control.

Many people aim for a daily goal of 10,000 steps (or about 5 miles) - and an industry offitness tracking devicesemerged to back it up—but that magic number isn't derived from scientific research, says John Schuna Jr., PhD, associate professor of kinesiology at the Oregon State College of Public Health and Human Sciences in Corvallis. “It was first used in a Japanese marketing campaign for one of the first commercial pedometers.” The device was called “manpo-kei”, which means “10,000 meters of steps” in Japanese.

"A goal of 10,000 steps is considered a realistic minimum and is fine, but for full risk reduction, people should aim for more," says William Tigbe, MD, PhD, MD, University of Warwick public health researcher and lead author. main study, showing that 15,000 steps a day can lead to greater benefits. "In our study, those who walked an extra 5,000 steps had nometabolic syndromerisk factors in general.

2. Increase the pace.Another way to get more out of a shorter walk is to make it faster. A 2017 study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise looked at not only the total number of steps people took per day, but also how fast they walked them.

"Those who had a faster cadence had similar health outcomes - lower BMI and waist circumference - as those who took more steps per day," says Schuna, one of the study's authors. He recommends walking at least 100 steps per minute (about 2.5 to 3 mph) or as fast as possible (135 steps per minute gets you around 4 mph).

3. Break it down."We can't rack up 15,000 steps just in our spare time," says Tigbe. "But if you takewalk breaksit is possible during the day.” Aim to take brisk walks of 10 minutes or more each. You'll take more steps and decrease the amount of time you spend sitting - which is a big risk factor for this.heart disease.

4. Try intervals.Instead of taking a full 30-minute walk at the same moderate pace, tryHigh intensity interval training. Alternate between walking 30 seconds and walking 1 minute faster, followed by a minute or two of slower recovery.

In one study, researchers compared people who didn't exercise, those who walked at a steady, moderate pace, and those who did a mix of high-intensity and moderate-intensity walking. The researchers found that the group that increased the intensity had the greatest reduction in waist circumference.abdominal fat.

5. Go up a slope."Imagine buying two for one," says Sallis. “As you increase your intensity, e.g. For example, walking up a steep hill gives the benefit in half the time.”

Products that can help

You don't need anything to start increasing your step count and speed today. However, if you train more indoors or want to better track your progress, here are some of our top-rated ones.matsefitness tracker.

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How to get the most benefit from walking - Consumer Reports (1)

Sally Wadyka

Sally Wadyka is a freelance writer contributing to consumer reports, real simple, martha stewart living, yoga journal and food network on health, nutrition and wellness.

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