When it comes to exercise, it is easy to get lost in the minutia of sets, reps and workout regimes. In actuality, one can see significant health benefits from practicing the easiest workout possible: walking.
Walking is a weight-bearing exercise. This means that it brings up the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and strengthens the heart. In fact, just 30 minutes of walking every day can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat and boost muscle power and endurance.
Walking regularly also reduces your risk of developing heart disease, type-2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some other cancers.
The common consensus for many years has been to recommend 10,000 steps per day. However, recent studies state that the actual total of recommended steps per day may be closer to 7,000.
JamaNetwork Walking Study
- JamaNetwork: This study found that people who took about 7000 steps per day had about 50 to 70% lower risk of dying from all causes. The study followed participants for a 11-year period and cross-referenced the number of steps-per-day by a participant, their health condition and in the case of death – the cause of death. JamaNetwork also concluded that a participant hitting 7000 steps per day saw a 50 to 70% lower risk of dying from all causes regardless of other factors such as race, income level, smoking, weight and diet.
- Health experts are hypothesising that this study will provide a motivational boost for many people. The previously-used universal target of 10,000 steps may seem unattainable to many people … but a new recommendation of 7000 steps could encourage less active and more hesitant people to get involved with exercise.
Harvard School of Public Health Study
- The Harvard School of Public Health, Boston conducted a study in 2007 on inactive women. The study found that even a low level of exercise – around 75 minutes per week – improved the fitness levels of inactive women significantly.
- Women who walk at least 30 minutes a day can reduce their risk of stroke by 20% and by 40% when they step up the pace.
Other studies on the benefits of walking
- Another study also took into consideration post-menopausal women. It found that at least 30 minutes of walking each day reduced their risk of hip fractures by 40% but improved bone strength and density.
- A separate study found that women, aged 50-75, who took one-hour morning walks were more likely to relieve insomnia than women who didn’t take morning walks.
- A third study conducted by University of California, of 6000 women, aged 65 and older, found that age-related memory decline was also lower in those who walked more. Keeping the body and the brain active may potentially keep memories and the mind active.
10,000 steps: A marketing myth
Now that multiple studies, experts and government guidelines are dropping their recommended daily steps to 7000, perhaps we should ask ourselves where the 10,000 target even comes from?
Well, the answer is a lot simpler and less fact-based than you’d expect. As it turns out, Japanese company Yamasa Tokei used the 10,000-step mark when they were marketing their Japanese pedometer, called Manpo-Kei, in the 1960s.
Yamasa Tokei simply wanted a rounded and easily identifiable target for consumers using this new and budding item. 10,000 flows off the tongue and provides an ambitious goal.
We now know, after year long studies, that we see health benefits long before hitting 10,000 per day.
When it comes to walking, the issue may be that it’s ‘boring’. Nevertheless, walking is far less physically taxing than killing yourself in the gym. You can spice it up by varying your walking routes, walking the dog, walking with friends or joining a walking club. 7,000 steps a day could be the key to your success.