One of the keys to a longer and healthier life is to keep moving. The simple act of walking is as natural as breathing and could increase not only how long you live, but also your quality of life.
It’s easy to get excited about the latest and greatest trends, from high-intensity interval training to ultramarathons to triathlons to powerlifting. But at the end of the day, regular brisk walking gets you most, if not all of the way there—“there” meaning a long and healthy life. This is the main conclusion from the June volume of the prestigious British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM), a special edition dedicated exclusively to walking.
“Whether it is a stroll on a sunny day, walking to and from work, or walking down to the local shops, the act of putting one foot in front of the other in a rhythmic manner is as much human nature as breathing, thinking and loving,” write researchers Emmanuel Stamatakis, Mark Hamer, and Marie Murphy in an editorial in the journal.
The main study in the BJSM special edition surveyed more than 50,000 walkers in the United Kingdom—a variety of ages, both men and women—and found that regularly walking at an average, brisk, or fast pace was associated with a 20 percent reduction in all-cause mortality and a 24 percent reduction in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. All the data was self-reported. Participants were asked how frequently they walked and whether they would describe their usual pace as “slow,” “average,” “fairly brisk,” or “fast.” Though self-reported data like this is often viewed as a weakness, in this case it may actually be a strength. This is because “slow” versus “brisk” for a 30-year-old is different than “slow” versus “brisk” for a 70-year-old. In other words, what the researchers were really measuring was rate of perceived exertion, or how hard people felt they were walking. This method is proven to be an effective way to gauge effort and intensity during exercise. “A very simple way to grasp what a ‘brisk’ pace is in terms of exertion is to imagine it as a pace that gets you out of breath when it is sustained for more than a few minutes,” says Stamatakis, lead author on the study and professor of physical activity, lifestyle, and population health at the University of Sydney, Australia.
Another study, published earlier this year in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, examined nearly 140,000 men and women in the United States and came to the same conclusion. Engaging in at least 150 minutes per week of brisk walking was linked to a 20 percent reduction in all-cause mortality.
Read more at Outside Magazine