We’re constantly being told that walking is beneficial for our health, but is there a specific way we should go about doing it? Researchers say there just may be.
Maintaining a certain frequency, taking a specified number of steps and keeping up with a particular pace can all be helpful in lowering your risk of dementia, cardiovascular disease, cancer and even premature death.
And two recent studies published in JAMA Neurology and JAMA Internal Medicine this September, investigated the connection between daily step count, intensity of steps and an increased health benefit.
Whether you’re already committed to a daily walk or looking to get started, here’s everything you need to know about using frequency and speed to optimize your routine.
Here’s how to get the most benefit out of your daily walk
Frequency: Walk for at least 30 minutes each day
Walking for at least 30 minutes daily is strongly recommended in both papers. “It doesn’t have to be a consecutive 30-minute session,” Matthew Ahmadi, an author of the two studies told The New York Times. “It can just be in brief bursts here and there throughout your day.”
But the pace at which you walk will likely contribute to the number of steps you take. And it is essential in aiding to decrease risks of severe disease and early death.
Number of steps: Aim for 9,800 – 10,000 a day
For every 2,000 steps, risk of heart disease, cancer and premature death decreases by 10%, peaking at 10,000 steps each day, the research shows.
Additionally, a little under 10,000 steps a day (9,800) can drop risk of dementia by 50%. There was also a 25% lower risk for those who walked about 3,800 steps daily.
And “adults who took 8,000 or more steps a day had a reduced risk of death over the following decade than those who only walked 4,000 steps a day,” according to the National Institute of Health.
Speed: Take 80 to 112 steps per minute
To compare the pace of walking, researchers created two categories:
- those who walked less than 40 steps per minute, which is the typical pace people maintain when moving from place to place
- individuals who walked more than 40 steps per minute or what they defined as “purposeful” walking
After reviewing the data of participants nearly seven years later, the most health benefits were found in those who walked more briskly.
This group included people who walked about 80 steps per minute, which reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and premature death more than other groups, the authors of the study told CNN.
Walking at a faster pace also proved to be beneficial for lowering risk of dementia. At 112 steps per minute, individuals were able to lower their reduction risk of the condition by 38%.
Here’s what else you should know
Both studies, conducted in the U.K., collected health data from over 75,000 people between 2013 and 2015 and revisited the data approximately seven years later.
The individuals included in the study did not have cardiovascular disease, cancer or dementia when the research first began.
All participants included in the final analysis wore a device that tracked their steps for longer than 16 hours each day over the course of three or more days to monitor their average physical activity.