Going for a daily walk is something we should all do. Why? Well, because we can reap the multitude of health benefits of this simple and easy-to-do activity. Walking can help us stay in shape and physically healthy, but it can also do wonders for our emotional wellbeing by reducing stress and anxiety and improving our mood.
It’s unquestionable, walking on a daily basis has the power to change our lives for the better. But should you go the distance or opt for a shorter, faster walk? Is one better than the other? Let’s take a closer look.
Why Go for a Fast Walk
If you have limited time at your disposal, but still wish to exercise, going for a short, fast walk is the optimal solution.
The main benefit of this form of workout revolves around your cardiovascular health. Picking up the pace will get your heart rate pumping and strengthen your heart muscle. In addition to improving heart health and preventing cardiovascular disease, a fast walk will also help you enhance your aerobic capacity and tone up your muscles.
If your aim is to lose weight, this is the preferred workout. A fast walk will ensure a higher calorie burn per minute than a stroll and hence will help you drop those unwanted pounds in a more efficient manner.
Why Go for a Long Walk
If time is on your side, a longer, slower walk can be great as well.
Even though the impact is not exactly the same due to the lack of intensity, a leisure walk can also aid you keep your heart healthy. At the same time, this type of exercise will increase your overall endurance and protect your joints. The risk of suffering an injury is also considerably lower in comparison to fast walking.
But walking isn’t only about physical benefits. A long stroll at a leisurely place, in a green environment, far away from the hustle and bustle, can turn out to prove truly beneficial for your mental health. Spending time in nature will help you quiet the mind and feel calmer and more relaxed.
What Do the Studies Say
Across the years, various studies have focused on investigating if a faster walking pace can actually make a difference and generate bigger health benefits.
In a 2006 analysis, published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, scientists aimed to discover a link between the walking pace and all-cause mortality. After analyzing the data of more than 50.000 walkers, researchers found that participants who walked at a faster pace had a lower risk of all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality in comparison to those who walked at a slower pace.
A different research, published in 2021 in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention journal, examined the influence of walking pace on cancer survivors. The results showed that the risk of all-cause and cancer-related death was more than double for those who reported a slower walking pace.
A cohort study, published in 2022 in the Jama Internal Medicine, confirmed the benefits of brisk walking. 78.500 individuals took part in a trial which required to walk wearing an activity tracker to monitor their step count and step intensity. The findings showed that those who walked a brisk pace had a 35% lower risk of death, a 25% reduced risk of heart disease or cancer and a 30% decreased risk of dementia in comparison to those who walked at a slower pace.
How Much Should You Walk Daily
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults should get as close as possible to the 10.000 steps/day mark to enjoy a healthy life. In terms of distance, this equates to approximately 5 miles/8 kilometers. 10.000 steps seems to be the optimal number, but there are studies claiming that even a lower step count can bring health improvements. You can read more into the matter here.
What Is a Fast Walking Pace
Are you looking to reach the optimal intensity during your workout sessions? Well, then you should aim for a specific walking speed. According to professors from the Diabetes Research Centre, University of Leicester, you should walk at a pace of at least 4 mph. Their findings, published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, showed that participants who walked at this pace of 4 mph had a significantly longer life expectancy compared to those who walked at less than 3 mph.
Another study came to the conclusion that a cadence higher than 100 steps per minute is enough to reach a brisk pace.
Track your Walks
No matter if you decide to go for a long or fast walk, it’s important to start keeping track of your physical activity. First of all, because this way you’ll know with precision if you’re getting enough exercise and meeting the recommended health guidelines. Moreover, you’ll be able to monitor your progress in time, gain the necessary motivation to keep on going and find fulfillment when you reach and even surpass your goals.
Tracking your walking activity does not have to be costly. There’s no need to purchase a dedicated fitness wearable when you can download a free pedometer app, just like our own ActivityTracker, to keep track of your daily movement. Such an app will automatically record your walking exercises and provide relevant info regarding your step count, calorie burn, the distance covered or the total active minutes. You’ll be able to set and adjust your own goals based on the desired fitness metric and see your progress for each hour, day, week or month.
Which form of walking is better? Well, if you take a look at the scientific studies carried out over the years, going for a brisk walk has proven to generate more health benefits than walking at a slow pace. If it’s within your reach, pick up the pace during your sessions. If your physical condition doesn’t allow it, there’s no need to worry. Walking at a leisurely pace comes with its share of benefits for both the body and the mind. The most important thing is to keep moving. Do as much as you can to avoid a sedentary lifestyle.