If you’ve ever scolded yourself for not getting to the gym, relax, you don’t have to. Forget those intense workouts. If its longevity you seek, just walk 30 minutes. Hard to believe, but it's true. A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that just 150 minutes a week of walking lowers your risk of premature death by 20%.
The study’s lead author Alpa Patel, Ph.D., a researcher with the American Cancer Society, says the study is good news for anyone who worries that walking doesn’t count as exercise. “Walking was the only moderate to vigorous exercise for half the people in our study” says Patel. “This proves that walking has real benefits.”
Dr. Patel’s study followed 140,000 participants for 13 years comparing adults who did no physical activity, against those whose only exercise was walking, and those who walked plus did other types of exercise.
The participants were mostly senior citizens, with an average age of 70. Those who reported getting no activity at all were 26 percent more likely to have died during the 13 years than those who simply walked 150 minutes per week.
Whether the participants achieved their 150 minutes a week of physical activity through only walking or through other activities didn’t seem to matter; both groups reaped similar longevity benefits. In the walking-only group, those who walked the most were better protected against death from respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer than those who walked the least.
This wasn’t surprising to the researchers, because walking has previously been associated with a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and breast and colon cancers. But Patel was surprised that the people who only walked got almost as much benefit as those who did more exercise.
Only half of U.S. adults meet the recommended guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. For those people, Patel says, simply aiming to meet that threshold could have real implications on longevity.
If you enjoy more vigorous forms of exercise, don’t stop; other studies have shown that higher-intensity workouts have even more benefits. But if you're one of the millions of Americans who don’t get 150 minutes per week of moderate activity this study proves you’ll live longer simply by walking 150 minutes per week or more.
Remember, you’re only as wealthy as you are healthy.
~I walked 3,540 steps while writing this blog post.