Walk and Live Longer

Walking Promotes Longer Life and Lowers Your Risk of Death

Senior couple powerwalking
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Does walking increase your longevity? Studies have found associations between walking more and living longer.

Take 3000 More Steps per Day to Live Longer

Put on your Fitbit, get out of the recliner and start stepping your way to a longer life. A study of over 2500 middle-aged Australians found that increasing their pedometer steps per day from a sedentary level to 10,000 steps per day reduced their mortality risk by 40 percent The findings seemed to be linear - walk more, live longer.

Adding 3000 steps per day, the equivalent of 1.5 miles or walking for 30 minutes, reduced risk of a premature death by 12 percent. The study followed the participants over a 15 year period.

Don't stop walking. A large prospective study published in 2017 found that seniors who walk greatly reduce their risk of all-cause mortality compared with those who are inactive. Those who used walking as their only physical activity but met the recommendation of walking briskly for 150 minutes or more per week reduced their risk of mortality by 20 percent compared with those who walked for less than two hours per week. They also reduced their risk of dying of respiratory disease by 30 percent and cancer by 9 percent compared with those who walked less. But there was also a bonus for those who walked for less than two hours per week, as they had a 26 percent lower risk of dying those those who were inactive.

The conclusion: do as much walking as you can.

Using a pedometer can motivate you to walk more, and it also objectively measures whether you're walking as much as you think you are. It's a good tactic to use if you have been inactive and you want to get started and keep going.

Great Health Effects of Walking

Walking and other kinds of exercise probably protect the heart and circulatory system by raising HDL, the good cholesterol, and keeping weight down.

Experts suspect it may help prevent cancer by beneficial effects on the immune system and hormone levels, among other things. Walking also contributes to "regularity" which in turn reduces the risk of colon cancer. Studies show walking and other moderate-intensity exercise reduces the risk of breast cancer. See our other articles on walking and disease prevention.

Water and Exercise Reduce Colorectal Cancer Risk

Drink up and get moving, a study in Taiwan found 83 percent less colorectal cancer in men who exercise as opposed to sedentary men. They found no effect in women, but that may be because women in Taiwan are rarely sedentary as they do plenty of hard housework.

Moderate Exercise Benefits the Heart

You don't have to feel the burn. Just 30 minutes a day of walking brings as much risk reduction for heart attack as a high-intensity exercise program, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Safe Exercising as You Age and with Health Conditions

Preventing a sports injury is often a concern. Walkers can use many of the same principles used to prevent running injuries when you are over age 50. Build up your walking time and speed steadily. A daily walk is good for you, but also take a rest day after any especially long or vigorous workout to give your body a chance to repair and build new muscle.

Check any advice with your own common sense and your health care provider's recommendations.

Arthritis and diabetes are common conditions many people develop as they age. Walking is usually recommended as a way to keep active and manage diabetes. Arthritis pain can make it more difficult to want to walk, but there are ways to keep walking when you have bad knees. Talk with your doctor about any modifications to your medications or recommendations based on your situation. Then get started.

Encourage the ones you love to get out and walk regularly so they will be around longer. Stay healthy and stay on the trail.​ Start walking.

Sources:

Dwyer T, Pezic A, Sun C, Cochrane J, Venn A, Srikanth V, et al. (2015) Objectively Measured Daily Steps and Subsequent Long Term All-Cause Mortality: The Tasped Prospective Cohort Study. PLoS ONE 10(11): e0141274. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0141274

Lemaitre RN, Siscovick DS, Raghunathan TE, Weinmann S, Arbogast P, Lin D. "Leisure-Time Physical Activity and the Risk of Primary Cardiac Arrest." Archives of Internal Medicine, 1999; 159:686-690

Patel AV, Hildebrand JS, Leach CR, et al. Walking in Relation to Mortality in a Large Prospective Cohort of Older U.S. Adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2017. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2017.08.019.

Tang R, Wang JY, Lo SK, Hsieh LL. "Physical activity, water intake and risk of colorectal cancer in Taiwan: a hospital-based case-control study. International Journal of Cancer. 1999 Aug 12;82(4):484-9.

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