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A brisk walk yields greater dividends than mere strolling

by Team@Lotus
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It is widely acknowledged that a brisk walk is much better than merely walking or strolling. Now, research is substantiating this contention.

In the largest study commissioned on activity tracker data, pacing up demonstrated larger gains for general health on a long-term basis. The results were recently published in two papers in the journals JAMA Internal Medicine and JAMA Neurology. Data was collected about the activity tracker usage by over 78,000 people, who walked briskly for about 30 minutes daily, which resulted in a reduced risk of cancer, dementia, heart disease and death, compared with those walking the same number of steps at a slower pace. 

Dr. Michael Fredericson, a sports physician at Stanford University, with no link to the study, said: “Activity tracker data is going to be better than self-reported data.” 

Many people wear an activity tracker regularly to count the number of steps taken in a day. Merely by looking at these numbers it is difficult to decipher how it would benefit overall health. Is the overall number of steps daily significant or is it the intensity of exercising? 9,800 steps a day offered the highest level of well-being.

Participants in these studies with an average age of 61 agreed to wear activity trackers for seven days and nights. 


Recommending incorporating more intense exercise into your daily life, Dr. Tamanna Singh, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, reminds her patients that everything is relative. “Everybody is starting from a different training status,” she said. When it comes to brisk walking, “at these moderate levels of effort, you are able to increase your aerobic capacity.” Besides the long-term health benefits, such intensity would also lower blood pressure, moderate blood sugar levels and lower the risk for heart attacks and strokes. The key is to walk at an intensity that is manageable but also slightly pushes the boundaries of what is a comfortable pace. “That constant slow stress on your body is what leads to fitness gains,” Dr. Singh said. “If you’re just getting started, this is probably the easiest way to get started and stay committed, consistent and injury-free.”

Analyzing the study, The New York Times reported that every 2,000 additional steps a day lowered the risk of premature death, heart disease and cancer by about 10%, up to about 10,000 steps per day. For developing dementia, 9,800 steps per day was associated with a 50% reduced risk, with risk reducing by 25% starting at about 3,800 steps per day. There just weren’t enough participants who were walking 10,000+ steps a day to determine whether there were additional benefits.

For perspective, a person doing 2,400 to 3,000 steps of brisk walking could see a high risk for developing heart disease, cancer and dementia dip majorly, without taking additional steps.

“It doesn’t have to be a consecutive 30-minute session,” said Matthew Ahmadi, a research fellow at the University of Sydney and one of the authors of the studies. “It can just be in brief bursts here and there throughout your day.”

In the nutshell, you will do yourself good by walking a little faster than your normal pace. However, not enough data on brisk walking vs jogging is available to determine which was better if at all. But one study in 2013 that followed almost 50,000 runners and walkers suggested that both offer similar heart health benefits though walking a mile takes longer.

How do I know if I’m walking fast enough?

  • A brisk walk is about 3 miles an hour, which is faster than a stroll.
  • You can tell you’re walking briskly if you can still talk but cannot sing the words to a song.
Walking 101

University of California, Berkeley’s health department  recommends:  

Posture:  * Stand nice and tall with your head looking forward and not down or up                                       

* Engage your core and relax your shoulders and hands                                                                                         

* Keep your feet pointed forward                                                                                                                                   

Arms:  * Arms do not swing above chest level                                              

Stride: * Begin by walking at a natural stride and step length. Do not overstride, this will not make you walk faster.                     * To move faster – swing your arms more quickly.  

(Lead Photo courtesy VeryWellFit)                                   

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