Benefits of walking: this study proves that we should all be walking more (and how to)
Your daily walk may be more beneficial than you think.
Don’t throw in the towel once the gyms reopen – walking has more benefits than you think.
Raise your hand if you’re one of the many that found themselves walking a lot more during lockdown? Us too.
With the gyms shut, pubs closed and social gatherings cancelled, walking has been our go-to distraction. A way to separate the mundane work day and step away from our not-so-comfortable makeshift desks. Or a means of socialising (when restrictions lifted).
Depending where you’re at, at your fitness level, you may not be able to run, but the vast majority can walk – even if it’s only a very short distance. But if you’ve become a recent convert who plans to pack away the pedometer once the spin studios and weight rooms reopen, consider this: Walking is the most accessible, easiest way to stay fit. That might seem unlikely if you’re into more intense forms of exercise. After all, if you’ve spent half your life at Barry’s Bootcamp (in person or online), walking isn’t going to make much of a difference… Or is it?
Since the 1970s, ‘no pain, no gain’ has been the ever-present motto of trainers and running clubs. If you’re not working at 80% of your overall max, you’re not working hard enough. While that sort of high-intensity training is great for significantly boosting fitness and preparing for races and competitions, it’s not always sustainable. With training hard on a daily basis, you run the risk of injury, fatigue and even a drop off in interest.
Low impact steady state cardio (LISS), on the other hand, is still great for heart health and you can do it every day. In fact, a 2013 study claimed that walking briskly can help your heart health as much as running. Published in the American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, researchers compared data from two studies of 33,060 runners and 15,045 walkers. Walkers experienced greater health benefits than runners: seeing the risk of first-time high blood pressure drop by 7.2%, compared to runners’ 4.2% – while cholesterol risk was cut by 7 % for walkers compared to 4.3% for runners. Both had the same 12 percent cut in risk for first-time diabetes.
“Walking and running provide an ideal test of the health benefits of moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running because they involve the same muscle groups and the same activities performed at different intensities,” says study leader Dr Paul Williams, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. “People are always looking for an excuse not to exercise, but now they have a straightforward choice to run or to walk and invest in their future health.”
In a report that included findings from multiple studies, researchers found that walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31% and cut the risk of dying by 32%. These benefits were equally prevalent in men and women and were apparent by covering just 5.5 miles a week at a speed of two miles per hour. If you walk 10,000 steps a day, you’re covering almost five miles a day so you really don’t have to go far at all to reap the cardio protections. People who walked longer distances or walked at a faster pace (or both) resulted in the largest reduction of risk for cardiovascular disease.