Is walking for your health good enough?
May 1, 2023 - By Karine Larose, M.Sc.
We’ve often heard that we need to walk at least 10,000 steps a day to be considered active and to promote good overall health. Did you know that this figure was first put forward in 1964, without any scientific basis? In fact, this figure appeared in the context of an advertising campaign by a Japanese company that wanted to market one of the first pedometers. Since then, several studies have documented the substantial health benefits of walking. So, how many steps do we really need to walk per day to benefit? Is walking enough to improve our physical condition?
The benefits of walking
Let’s start by highlighting the substantial health benefits of this simple activity:
- Decrease risk of all-cause mortality;
- Decrease incidence of cancer and type 2 diabetes;
- Reduced blood pressure;
- Reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease and improved cardiovascular health;
- Improved cognitive function, including creativity and memory;
- Reduced joint pain;
- Improved mood and reduced stress;
- Improved sleep;
- Strengthened muscles and bones;
- Increased energy levels.
As you can see, the benefits are numerous and significant, especially for an activity as attainable as walking. Now, how many steps should you aim for to get the full benefits?
How many steps should you walk a day?
Contrary to the long-held belief of 10,000 steps per day, a recent study published in the Jama Network found that walking 8,000 steps, 3 days a week, was optimal for reducing the risk of all-cause mortality. In short, 8,000 steps per day would be the minimum necessary to obtain a protective effect against chronic diseases.
You should know that 8,000 steps correspond to a little less than 5 km, or about 1 hour and 20 minutes of walking, depending on the speed and length of the steps. I also invite you to evaluate your daily physical activity level according to the work you do. A sedentary job will require you to take time out of your day to accumulate steps, while an active job can more than meet your “daily walking needs”. So, if you’re short on time, this is great news.
Although the minimum step count has been revised downward, is walking enough physical activity to improve your fitness and health?
Is walking enough?
The World Health Organization (WHO) makes three main recommendations to improve your health:
- First, the WHO recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate physical exercise per week. Walking at a brisk pace meets this first requirement. Choose steep terrain and increase your speed to ensure a moderate intensity. You should also know that physical activities other than walking, which raise your heart rate, meet this first requirement.
- The WHO also recommends a minimum of two days per week of muscle strengthening. Walking is not a substitute for strength training. So, in addition to your weekly walk, you should add exercises such as lifting weights, pulling on elastic bands, doing exercises on a strength training machine or even with your own body weight. Need help building a strength training program that suits your fitness level? Ask a kinesiologist for help!
- Finally, the WHO recommends regular activities that improve your balance, such as standing on one foot. Walking works your balance in part, but other specific exercises will further engage the muscles involved in balance and stability. Yoga and tai chi are also great options.
All in all, several recent studies clearly demonstrate the many benefits associated with walking. So even if you’re short on time, know that every step counts and makes a difference to your health. And if you’re able to add strength training and balance work, you’re crushing it! 😉
- Association of Daily Step Patterns with Mortality in US Adults
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The health benefits of walking.
- 5 Surprising benefits of walking
- Prospective Associations of Daily Step Counts and Intensity with Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Incidence and Mortality and All-Cause Mortality
- Walking for exercise
- Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health
Is walking for your health good enough? is a post from Nautilus Plus. The Nautilus Plus blog aims to help people in their journey to fitness through articles on training, nutrition, motivation, exercise and healthy recipes.
Copyright © Nautilus Plus 2023
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