Walking is a popular way to exercise, as it requires no equipment or skills and is low impact. But, new research shows that people should pick up their walking pace if they want to reap the most health benefits.
A recent study, presented at an American Heart Association Scientific Session, revealed that women who walked at a brisk pace were healthier than those who walked slowly.
For the study, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School analyzed data from a national survey that took place over a 20-year period, and which questioned women about their leisure-time physical activity, including their usual walking pace and distance.
The key finding was that women who walked three or more miles per hour decreased their risk of developing heart failure by 23 percent, compared to the slowest walkers who averaged two or fewer miles per hour.
In addition, the least active women were more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure and a higher BMI.
“This study proves that being active has far more health benefits than a sedentary lifestyle. And, people who walk at a fast pace rather than a leisurely one reap even greater benefits,” says Dr. Marc Silver, a cardiologist and founder of the heart failure program at Advocate Heart Institute at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill.
“Simply increasing your walking speed by one mile per hour can lower heart disease risk significantly,” he says.
Dr. Silver and his team at Christ Medical Center recently reported on a relationship between daily steps measured using a pedometer and other established risk predictors of outcome in heart failure patients. They determined that patients who had a higher number of average steps per day had better outcomes.
“Either as a preventative or a health improvement measure, walking is a nearly perfect form of exercise that contributes great benefit,” says Dr. Silver.