Pick up any magazine that deals with health or fitness and you will find that exercise is vital. Diet is the other half of the equation needed to maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
However, more than half of all adults in the United States are not getting the right amount of exercise. Whether it's a matter of not having the time or just not wanting to pick up and go to the gym, many people do not get the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise.
Many fitness experts have turned to encouraging walking, on a regular basis as a way to encourage exercise. While 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise is what many health professionals advise, new research from the American Cancer Society shows that walking, even just a little, still results in a reduced risk of mortality from certain conditions like heart disease or stroke.
Researchers at The American Cancer Society wanted to find out if even just a little bit of walking on a regular basis could help prevent an early death from cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and cancer. They used data from the Cancer-Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort, a study that has over 140,000 enrollees. In a group with the median age around 68 years old, the study found that even among those who walked for less than two hours a week had a lower rate of mortality compared to those who did not walk at all. This reduction in risk was seen in all three major causes investigated.
Going just a bit above the two hours per week, to the range of two and half hours to five hours per week, kicked the risk reduction factor into the double digits, with the study showing a 20% reduction in risk for this group.
Lead author of the study Dr. Alpa Patel, Ph.D. of the Intramural Research Department of the American Cancer Society stated, "Walking has been described as the ‘perfect exercise' because it is simple, free, convenient, doesn't require any special equipment or training, and can be done at any age. With the near doubling of adults aged 65 and older expected by 2030, clinicians should encourage patients to walk even if less than the recommended amount, especially as they age, for health and longevity."
Many adults, especially those over the age of 65, report that they are afraid to exercise too much because of other health concerns. Many older adults have arthritis, limited mobility due to age and are not able to join a fitness center or gym. With these kinds of obstacles, it's especially difficult for this population to make exercise part of their routine. It's possible that the guidelines of 150 minutes per week seem overwhelming, so the fact that there is a benefit to even just a small amount of walking might be encouraging to those who feel that it's too difficult. The video below has more information on the study, so take a look. Then, maybe take a walk!