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To get more out of walking, pick up the pace

11 years, 11 months ago

739  0
Posted on Oct 24, 2006, 3 p.m. By Bill Freeman

If walking is your only form of exercise, you may want to pick up the pace a bit on some of those walks, experts suggest. That's because a study shows that low-intensity walking alone is unlikely to generate significant health benefits compared to more moderately intense workouts. Experts advise that people try to take 10,000 steps per day as part of a healthy lifestyle. One concern Dr. Vicki Harber has is that people might think what matters most is the total number of daily steps taken and not pay much attention to the pace or effort invested in taking those steps.
If walking is your only form of exercise, you may want to pick up the pace a bit on some of those walks, experts suggest. That's because a study shows that low-intensity walking alone is unlikely to generate significant health benefits compared to more moderately intense workouts.

Experts advise that people try to take 10,000 steps per day as part of a healthy lifestyle. One concern Dr. Vicki Harber has is that people might think what matters most is the total number of daily steps taken and not pay much attention to the pace or effort invested in taking those steps.

"There are a growing number of studies showing the benefits (oxygen consumption, body fat control, lipid/glucose metabolism) of including higher intensity activity," Harber told Reuters Health.

She and two colleagues at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada tested the effects of the popular 10,000-step program against a traditional aerobic fitness program involving exercising at moderate intensity on a treadmill or stationary bicycle. The 10,000-step walkers walked at a self-selected pace.

When they matched the two programs for total energy expenditure, they found that the traditional fitness program improved aerobic fitness and reduced blood pressure more than the 10,000-step walking program.

Of the 128 sedentary men and women who completed the 6-month study, those who walked on the treadmill or rode stationary bikes increased their peak oxygen uptake -- an indicator of aerobic fitness -- by 10 percent, while the walkers saw just a 4 percent increase in peak oxygen uptake.

Systolic blood pressure -- the top number of the BP reading -- also dropped by 10 percent in the traditional fitness group compared to 4 percent for the walking group.

"The 10,000 step program is an excellent starting point," Harber told Reuters Health. "The pedometer itself provides instant feedback, is motivating for many and shows accumulated steps very nicely. It is self-paced and is geared toward getting people who do virtually nothing to do 'something'."

Harber and her team are not suggesting people start with higher intensity activity. "It must be introduced once the person is accustomed to activity," she said.

Once the daily step count is established, Harber advises adding some briskness or "huff and puff" to one's daily walks and "don't be shy to interject an occasional period of time at the vigorous level."

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