The age-old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” might have a modern counterpart: “A walk a day could keep the grim reaper at bay.” It sounds simple, and it is!
Numerous studies have continuously underlined the countless benefits of walking, from improving cardiovascular health to boosting mental well-being.
But did you know that this humble form of exercise can also add years to your life?
In our fast-paced world, where high-intensity workouts and fitness fads often steal the spotlight, the ancient act of walking remains a steadfast champion in longevity.
Dive with us into the compelling science behind how to live longer by walking isn’t just a health guru’s tale; it’s a reality waiting for everyone who laces up their shoes and takes that first step.
The Science Behind the Benefits of Walking
Walking is a simple and effective way to improve health and reduce the risk of dying from any cause or cardiovascular disease.
According to a recent meta-analysis of 17 studies conducted worldwide, walking an average of at least 3,967 steps a day can start to reduce the risk of dying from any cause, and 2,337 steps a day can reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases.
Live Longer by Walking: The Data
The meta-analysis found that the more you walk, the greater the health benefits.
The risk of dying from any cause or from cardiovascular disease decreases significantly with every 500 to 1000 extra steps you walk.
An increase of 1,000 steps a day was associated with a 15% reduction in the risk of dying from any cause, while an increase of 500 steps a day was associated with a 7% reduction in dying from heart disease and stroke.
Even if people walked as many as 20,000 steps a day, the health benefits continued to increase, and the researchers have not found an upper limit yet.
“Our study confirms that the more you walk, the better,” said cardiology Professor Maciej Banach, the lead researcher of the study. “We found that this applied to both men and women, irrespective of age and irrespective of whether you live in a temperate, sub-tropical, or sub-polar region of the world or a region with a mixture of climates. In addition, our analysis indicates that as few as 4,000 steps a day are needed to significantly reduce deaths from any cause, and even fewer to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease.”
The study found that people who walk between 6,000 and 10,000 steps a day can reduce their risk of dying from any cause by 42%, while those who walk between 7,000 and 13,000 steps a day can reduce their risk of dying from any cause by 49%.
However, in people aged 60 years or older, the size of the reduction in risk of death was smaller than that seen in people aged younger than 60 years.
The researchers emphasized that there were limited data available on step counts up to 20,000 a day, and so these results need to be confirmed in larger groups of people.
However, the study provides strong evidence that walking is a simple and effective way to improve health and reduce the risk of dying from any cause or cardiovascular disease.
In a world where we have more and more advanced drugs to target specific conditions such as cardiovascular disease, lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, might be at least as, or even more effective, in reducing cardiovascular risk and prolonging lives.
The researchers believe that we should always think about personalizing lifestyle changes, and further studies are needed to investigate whether these benefits may exist for intensive types of exertion, such as marathon running and Iron-Man challenges, and in different populations of different ages, and with different associated health problems.
Walking, it seems, is the unsung hero of longevity. In a world teeming with intricate workouts and fitness regimens, the simplicity of putting one foot in front of the other offers profound benefits.
Not only does walking boost our physical health, but it rejuvenates the mind, soul, and perhaps most importantly, extends the tapestry of our life’s years.
So the next time you’re contemplating a drive to the nearby store or taking the elevator instead of the stairs, remember: each step you take is a stride towards a longer, healthier life.
Embrace the joy of walking and let every journey remind you of the beautiful, science-backed truth — we can indeed live longer by walking.
So why wait? The path to added years is right outside your doorstep.