The secret to a long life might be as simple as a 17-minute walk after dinner, according to new research.
It’s been recommended for years that American adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of intense activity each week to reap substantial health benefits.
But a study published this week in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine states that compared with inactivity, even a little walking can make a big difference, reducing premature death from cardiovascular and coronary disease, stroke, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.
When adjusting for other risk factors, such as obesity, smoking and chronic illnesses, they still found that walking for a total of two hours a week or 18 minutes a day lowered the risk of death. Walking for 150 minutes at a moderate level or 75 minutes at an intense rate - thus meeting the guidelines for activity - reduces the risk of death by 20 percent.
Dr. Alpa Patel is the strategic director of the Cancer Prevention Study-3 for the American Cancer Society, which is examining data from 140,000 people. As many as 95 percent said they did “some walking,” and for nearly half, walking was the only physical activity in which they were engaged.
“With the near-doubling of adults aged 65 (and older) expected by 2030, clinicians should encourage patients to walk even if less than the recommended amount, especially as they age, for health and longevity,” Patel and her colleagues wrote. “Walking has been described as ‘the perfect exercise’ because it is a simple action that is free, convenient, does not require any special equipment or training, and can be done at any age.”
Walking did the best job at preventing death from respiratory disease; six hours a week of walking led to a 35 percent lower risk of death compared to those who did not do any physical activity.
Another benefit? Walking improves mental health, reduces depression and improves cognitive function. Psychology Today called the results “a landmark study,” pointing out that another study released this month showed that one hour of exercise a week — at any intensity — helps prevent future depression.