Walking For Exercise? Pick Up The Pace!

Walking is the most popular form of exercise in the United States.  But to get the maximum benefit from this activity, you should be doing it at more than just a leisurely pace.

A new analysis of walking data that was published online at plosone.org shows that those who take 17 minutes or more to cover a mile were 18 percent more likely to die from any cause than those who walked more rapidly and were particularly vulnerable to deaths from heart disease and dementia.

Paul T. Williams, a statistician at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, did the analysis from gathered data of about 7,374 male and 31,607 female participants from the walkers’ health study  (a large database maintained at Lawrence Berkeley) who represented almost every speed of fitness walker, from slow (see above) to fast (averaging less than 13.5 minutes per mile).

For the slowest walkers, (24 minutes or more per mile), they were 44 percent more likely to have died than walkers who moved faster, even if they met other exercise guidelines.

It is possible that the slower walkers may have had underlying medical conditions that contributed to their higher mortality rates, but it is safe to assume from this research that a more intense (faster) walking rate will provide greater health benefit that just kibbitzing around a track with your buddies!

To determine your walking rate, find a 400-meter track and, using a stopwatch, walk at a normal speed. If a complete circuit of the track takes 6 minutes or more, your pace is 24 minutes per mile or slower . . . not really fast enough to get all the benefits of this type of exercise.  Consider picking up the pace (with the advise of your physician of course).

Oh, and by the way, average female walkers were faster than men!

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