Get walking regularly and you could add up to seven years to your life, says a new study. We help you up the pace and make each step count!
Walking is the easiest form of exercise for most of us and, according to research presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress in August, it could add up to seven years to our life and delay the time at which we become old. According to Professor Sanjay Sharma, author of the study, these are the main benefits:
It’s an antidepressant and improves cognitive function – it may retard the onset of dementia
It helps keep the heart healthy and can be suitable exercise for people with a heart condition (always check with your doctor first)
Muscles and bones become stronger, reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Get into your stride
If you’re very unfit or overweight, begin gently and build up your walking time and distance gradually. For those used to walking regularly at a leisurely pace, you’ll get even more benefit from going the extra mile. Here’s how…
Start by increasing the amount of general walking you do, gradually building up the intensity and duration over several weeks. Try to fit in about 150 min a week of moderate physical exercise, based on walking most days in bouts of at least 10 min, as recommended by the Chief Medical Officer. Do this until you feel comfortable. According to walking charity Ramblers: ‘You should be breathing a little faster, feeling a little warmer, but still comfortable and able to talk.’
Now speed up. Start to your quicken your stride when you walk. Flex your elbows, work through your shoulders more and be purposeful. The extra effort helps tone muscles and burn more calories – you’ll be a little out of breath. Measure your progress by timing your walks. Start with interval spurts, where you walk from one marker, such as a lamp post or tree, to the next, then power walk to the next marker, and so on.
Equipment that can help
Pedometers are great motivators, especially for people who are habitually less active – to be considered active you need to do 10,000 steps a day. Expensive models record details such as distances covered and calories consumed, but a cheap, fuss-free and robust pedometer that simply records the number of steps you take will do the job perfectly well.
The correct footwear depends on the terrain – trainers are fine on the flat on a dry summer’s day, but for walking through woodlands, on soft ground and uphill you’ll need a pair of walking shoes with tread.
Find out three types of walking and how many calories each burns.