We are all aware of the advice to walk at least 10,000 steps per day, and there is endless research to show that a sedentary lifestyle increases risk of many illnesses and mortality. New research however, from Harvard Medical School suggests that beyond 7,700 steps per day confers little additional benefit.
Health Benefits of Walking
The research tracked the walking habits of 16,741 women with an average age of 72, who agreed to wear a pedometer over a 4-year period. During the 4 years of the study 504 of the women died, and these were the ones who had moved the least, often averaging less than 2,700 steps per day. Walking an average of 4,400 steps per day seems to start to bring benefits such as lowering risk of heart disease, obesity, arthritis and depression and a 46% reduced chance of death from any cause.
Increasing steps from 5,000 – 7,500 increases health benefit, reducing chance of death from any cause by 53%. And 7,500 – 10,000 steps per day reduces chance of death from any cause to 66%. That’s a considerable amount! However, walking beyond 10,000 steps did not seem to reduce chance of death beyond the 66%.
But before you hang up your walking boots and head to the sofa, remember that this was a cohort of fairly elderly women, whose mobility and general fitness may be limited. They may also have had other health issues, therefore the benefit to them of additional walking alone may be limited. But walking is not the only exercise.
Don’t Forget The Muscle?
We do know that muscle building exercise is important throughout our lives, but particularly as we get older. Women in particular are prone to losing muscle as they age, but we need to remember that muscle gets replaced by fat. Muscle is also metabolically active – it increases our metabolism and helps us to burn fat and calories. At Homefield, when we print off your Body Composition Analysis sheet, we will point out to you your muscle and your Basal Metabolic Rate. The higher your level of muscle, the higher your Basal Metabolic Rate will be and the faster you will be burning fat and calories – even when you’re sleeping!! So if you want to maintain or lose weight, make sure you are combining cardio with some strength/resistance exercise.
Muscle is also important for supporting our bones, maintaining strength and co-ordination, reducing the risk of falls and accidents.
So how about combining walking with muscle building? Buy yourself some wrist and ankle weights and pop them on when you go for a walk. Start with half kilo weights – you’ll hardly notice them once you start walking briskly and swinging your arms (until you get to a hill, and then you’ll start to feel it!!). But doing this every day will really start to improve your muscle tone and turn your walk into a mini-work-out.
Our daily Nordic Walking also engages your whole body and helps improve muscle tone, and many people love it so much that they buy their own poles and join a local Nordic Walking group. So book your stay at Homefield and let us show you how it’s done!