Updated: Oct 20
Maintaining an active lifestyle is essential for both physical and mental well-being. Many individuals commit to structured exercise routines, such as hitting the gym, to stay fit and healthy. However, for various reasons, adhering to a gym regimen can be challenging for some. If you find yourself in this situation, there's a simple yet powerful solution that can still provide significant health benefits: daily walking. Devoting just 15-20 minutes a day to walking can yield remarkable improvements in overall health.
While health organizations like the 'Center for Disease Control' have long recommended 10,000 steps daily as a benchmark for reaping the rewards of walking, recent research has uncovered some surprising insights. Evidence suggests that the benefits of walking start to level off around 8,000 steps per day. Does this mean you should abandon the 10,000-step goal altogether? Not so fast. While even half of that – around 5,000 steps – could enhance longevity, studies indicate that taking additional steps correlates with even greater health advantages.
Researchers have discovered that an extra 500 steps each day is linked to a 7% reduction in cardiovascular-related deaths, while 1,000 extra steps are associated with a 15% decrease in overall mortality risk. Encouragingly, even as few as 2,500 steps daily can offer tangible health benefits, including a significant reduction in all-cause mortality. Strikingly, findings from multiple studies have consistently shown that as the daily step count increases, the risk of cognitive decline, dementia, cardiovascular disease, and cancer decreases proportionally.
Incorporating additional steps into your daily routine doesn't have to be daunting.
Here are some simple strategies to help you reach the 2,500 to 3,000 step goal:
Take an after-dinner walk with a friend to chat about the day.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
Walk your dog an extra block or make an extra circle around the block.
Exit the bus stop one or two stops before yours.
Park your car one or two blocks away from where your destination is.
It's worth noting that it's never too late to begin a regular walking routine. Whether you're 50, 70, or 80 years old, the health benefits are attainable and substantial. The key is to start wherever you are and gradually increase your step count as you become more comfortable.
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Domenico Praticò, MD, is the Scott Richards North Star Charitable Foundation Chair for Alzheimer’s Research, Professor and Director of the Alzheimer’s Center at Temple, and Professor of Pharmacology at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University