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Walking for longevity

World’s largest study shows the more you walk, the lower your risk of death – pretty impressive for an activity that comes so naturally, isn’t it?! So don’t underestimate the power of walking, as exercising really can be as simple as taking a walk! Let’s see what we can achieve by walking a little more starting today!

Table of Contents

Lifestyle and health prospects

There is strong evidence that a sedentary lifestyle may contribute to an increase in cardiovascular disease and a shorter life. Studies have shown that insufficient physical activity affects more than a quarter of the world’s population.

The easiest way to reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke is to get walking

Based on international guidelines, adults aged 18-64 years are recommended to carry out moderate physical activity for 150 minutes/week corresponding to 30 minutes on five days of the week. Moderate activity means that it takes effort, but you are still able to hold a conversation comfortably.

Walking boosts health, mood, energy and easily fits into your lifestyle. Walking daily can help you lose and maintain weight, lower your blood sugar levels, and reduce chronic stress — all of which can be beneficial to your heart and overall health.

The power of walking in numbers

  • According to a still ongoing study started in 1985, for people aged 70 and older, each additional 500 steps of daily brisk walking lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease by 14%.
    In addition, individuals who walked roughly 4,500 steps each day lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by 77%.
  • Similarly, researchers found that 11 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a day (or about 75 minutes a week) — such as brisk walking, hiking, or dancing — may be able to lower the risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and even some cancers.
  • Every extra 2,000 steps reduces the risk of death from heart disease and cancer by about 10 percent, up to 10,000 steps per day.
  • Taking 10,000 steps a day reduces the risk of dementia by about 50 percent.
  • Walking for 30 minutes a day can already lower the risk of heart disease and stroke by 35% percent and Type 2 diabetes by 40%.
  • A meta-analysis of 15 studies shows that 10,000 steps is not a magic number. The effect of daily steps varies significantly with age. Within a total sample of 47,451 participants across 15 studies conducted in multiple countries, the scientists found that while taking more steps per day correlates with progressively lower mortality risk, the risk reduction for adults aged 60 and older plateaus at 6000 – 8000 steps per day. Those younger than 60 see comparable risk benefits in the range of 8000 – 10,000 steps per day.

Dose-response association between steps per day and all-cause mortality, by age group

Dose-response association between steps per day and all-cause mortality, by age group

Additional positive effects include

Additional positive effects of walking

  • Improving balance and coordination, reducing your risk of falls and other injuries;
  • Maintaining bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures;
  • Improving mood which leads to better mental health;
  • Managing weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels;
  • Reducing the risk of developing some cancer.

Some activity is always better than none

You don’t have to walk for 30 minutes a day in one go, it’s the total number of steps per day that’s really important. So if it seems like a lot at first, divide it into 3 parts and start with 3 x 10-minute walks a day!

If you’re already comfortable with your 30 min brisk walking a day, you should consider picking up the pace, as people who are already active will benefit more by exercising harder and longer.

If you’re short on time, remember that any physical activity is better than none. In addition, the time spent on movement pays off, as your boosted energy will help you cope better with your busy schedule.

Here are some ideas to get going:

  • Park your car a little further away from your destination;
  • Walk your children to school;
  • Walk your dog (or a neighbour’s dog);
  • Take a walk with a friend or co-worker at lunch;
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator;
  • Get off the bus one stop earlier.

Extra support for your heart

If you want to get the most out of your new health habits, consider the following tips as well:

  • Sleep 7-8 hours a night;
  • Manage stress through, for example, meditation, yoga, or quiet time with a good book;
  • Try to reach or stay at a healthy weight;
  • Follow a flavonoid-rich, heart-friendly diet or add extra flavonoids in the form of a supplement.