It doesn't need a doctor to tell you that walking is one of the best, easiest and cheapest ways to instantly improve your physical and mental health. And the statistics on the power of walking make putting one foot in front of the other too good to resist.
Fitness trends come and go, but there's still one that's easy, free,burns serious calories, and is good for any fitness level – walking. The problem is, we're walking less than ever, yet a daily stroll could be the secret to all of our health woes.In 1976, people walked an average of 408 miles a year in the UK but that has fallen by nearly 20% to just 314 miles in 2009. But walk at a fast pace for 75 minutes a week - and you can add twoyears to your life.
How much am I burning off?
The aim for us all – according to UK government guidance - is to walk 10,000 steps a day or between 5-6 miles. To calculate the number of calories burned walking a mile at casual walking speed (2mph), multiply your weight in pounds by 0.49, and for brisk walking (3.5mph) multiply it by 0.57. One mile of walking for 20 minutes burns the same number of calories as running one mile in 10 minutes.
Maximise your effort by investing in wearables (such as this Polar Loop). In one study walkers wearing a pedometer increased physical activity by 26.9%.Why age mattersIf you are 25 and walking at 3mph you will use around 30% of your maximum energy consumption but this goes down by 10% per decade. This means if you are 75 walking and walking at the same speed you will use up 60% of your maximum energy.
Why walking is a great boost to your health
- Alzheimer's: Walking halves the risk of developing this form of dementia for five years. Improving blood flow and oxygen to the brain through walking stimulates the development of new brain cells.
- Cancer: You reduce your risk of breast cancer by up to 40% if you do vigorous physical activity for between 30-60 minutes five days a week. The risk of colon cancer is 30% lower if you take up vigorous physical activity such as brisk walking.
- Depression: Walking 30 minutes a day can reduce symptoms of depression by 36%.
- Diabetes: If you manage 3,500 steps a day then you will lower your risk of diabetes by 29%.
- Fractures: Four hours a week of walking can reduce the risk of hip fractures by up to 43%.
- Heart: 30 minutes a day of walking reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by 19%.
- Obesity: Walk an hour every day and you slash your risk of becoming obese by 50%.
- Stroke: Cardiovascular exercise helps combat high blood pressure – a leading cause of strokes. Reduce your risk of stroke by up to 27 % by walking briskly for 30 minutes daily.