Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Exercise
Walking: How fast is fast enough?
Every step you take reduces your risk of age-related conditions like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and reduced lung capacity. Walking can also reduce stress, control body weight, and tone and tighten muscles which can relieve arthritis symptoms.
“Walking is a great exercise for everyone to consider,” said Susan Mills-Gray, nutrition and health specialist with MU Extension. “You don’t need fancy or special clothing, just a quality, supportive, comfortable pair of shoes and you’re ready to go!”
New research from the University of Colorado has found that walking three miles per hour expends the least amount of energy (calories). Calories required for walking are actually greater when you walk faster or slower than three miles per hour. A good rule of thumb to use: Two miles per hour is about 67 steps per minutes, three miles per hour is about 100 steps per minute and four miles per hour is about 152 steps per minute.
“If you want to lose weight, then it’s best for you to walk slower, but walk longer and farther to burn calories. If you’re looking for a cardiovascular workout, then you need to walk faster but shorter distances with some hills added,” said Mills-Gray.
Most Americans average 2,000 to 3,000 steps a day (about one to one and a half miles). Research shows that it takes 10,000 steps (about five miles) daily to ward off chronic disease and other health challenges.
“Most of us overestimate how active we are every day. Using a pedometer is an easy and objective way to know for sure how much you’re moving,” Mills-Gray said.
While 10,000 daily steps may sound daunting to many, Mills-Gray suggests increasing your steps by 200 to 300 steps each day, each week until you reach the 10,000-step goal. This will take some time, but the health rewards are major.
Get your doctor’s permission before starting a walking program, especially if you are over 50 (or over 40 with a chronic disease). Also, warm up before your walk by stepping in place for a couple of minutes to slowly raise your heart rate and do some light stretching of your legs and lower back. It’s also a good idea to stretch your legs, back, hips and shoulders after you’ve completed your walk.
Environmental Nutrition, June 2009
University of Colorado
NIH publication: Exercise and Physical Activity: Getting Fit For Life
Last update: Thursday, June 25, 2009