Exercise has a plethora of benefits for mind, body and spirit. If you’ve recently been encouraged to introduce more fitness into your life, perhaps to improve your heart health, there’s no need to panic about having to launch an intense new routine. Walking is actually an excellent form of exercise.
Due to the many health benefits of walking -- including promoting heart health, improving balance and boosting mental health -- it’s no wonder that walking is considered one of the best exercises for older adults, especially for those who may not feel comfortable doing more rigorous exercises like lifting weights. But could the speed at which you walk really make that much of a difference when it comes to reducing your heart disease risk?
According to a recent study, the answer to that question is a resounding yes! In fact, brisk walking might just be the simplest and most effective way to lower your risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S.
The Link Between Brisk Walking and a Lower Heart Disease Risk
To determine if there were any heart-specific benefits to brisk walking, researchers used data from the Cardiovascular Health Study, which involved 4,207 men and women over the age of 65. By analyzing the results of annual physical exams, researchers were able to assess each participant's’ average walking pace and distance walked, along with whether or not they experienced any coronary emergencies, like a heart attack or stroke.
After looking at data that was collected over the course of 10 years, researchers found that the participants who walked faster than three miles per hour cut their heart disease risk in half. But that’s not all. When compared to those who walked less than five blocks a week, the participants who walked an average of seven blocks a day had a 47 percent lower heart disease risk.
Although this study mainly focused on how brisk walking has a major impact on overall heart health, the researchers also noted that brisk walking is certainly not the only exercise that will lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Other effective exercises for older adults mentioned by the researchers included hiking, swimming, biking and gardening.
What To Do Before You Start Brisk Walking
Walking may be one of the safer exercises for older adults, but it’s still important that you do everything you can to ensure your safety while exercising. These preventative steps may seem tedious or unnecessary, but they will go a long way in helping you avoid an injury or accident while you’re brisk walking: