Walk Your Way to Health

Walking is often recommended by health care professionals for a number of reasons. It is a great way to get moving and doesn’t create excess strain on the body. These professionals are correct in their recommendations. Walking has been shown to deliver a number of healthful benefits. A recent study demonstrated a short 15-minute walk curbs sweet cravings and as a result reduces the number of sugary snacks consumed. In addition, multiple studies have shown walking only five to six miles per week reduces arthritis pain, protects joints, and can even prevent arthritis. Yet another study found walking increases immune function, warding off colds and flu. On top of that, another study proved walking seven or more hours per week reduced the risk of breast cancer in women.

The Latest Studies And Brisk Walking

In some of the most recent studies brisk walking has been shown to offer even greater health benefits. So, picking up the pace when you head out for a walk can actually lengthen your life. As an added bonus, in a recent study by Harvard University, scientists found that walking briskly for as little as one half hour daily actually reduces the effects of genes in your body that cause weight gain.

Compared to a normal walking gait or an average pace, walking slowly reduces the risk of early mortality by near 20 percent, but walking at a faster pace cuts the risk of premature death by 24 percent. Your pace depends not only on you speed but on your fitness level. How do you gage a faster pace then? On average a fast walk is three to four miles per hour, but an even better indicator is walking at a pace, which when sustained, causes you to sweat and be slightly out of breath.

In one study, those who walked at a faster rate, cut their risk of heart disease by 21 to 24 percent compared to those walking at a slower pace. In older adults, particularly those over the age of 60, those who walked at the average rate cut their risk of heart disease by 46 percent compared to a 53 percent reduction for those who walked regularly at the faster rate. While this study doesn’t demonstrate a fixed cause and effect relationship, it does indicate a strong association.

Getting Started Walking Your Way to Health

If you are already a walker, you won’t find it difficult to pick up the pace in your routine. But what if you aren’t and want to get started reaping the healthful benefits of walking? As always, before beginning any exercise, consult your physician if your older (over 40), have been inactive for a long time, or have serious health issues.

Begin with the plan to walk a minimum of five days per week. You’ll want to start with a warm-up, walking for five minutes at a slow pace. The warm up should be followed by five minutes of brisk paced walking, and end with five minutes of slow paced walking to cool down. Remember brisk walking is a pace of three to four miles per hour, in which you are breathing hard but can still have a conversation. Use this routine for week one, and each week add two minutes to your brisk walking time. 

In addition, you should consider following the Department of Health and Human Services guidelines which recommend adding strength training along with aerobic exercise for optimal health – the perfect complement as you walk your way to health.

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