Thursday Ask Dr. Walt – How long should I walk for my health?

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Thursday Ask Dr. Walt – How long should I walk for my health?

This week’s “Ask Dr. Walt” question comes from “How Long to Walk in Wisconsin.” Dear Dr. Walt, can you settle a debate? My doctor says we have to walk 30 minutes at a time five days a week. My husband says his doctor tells him as long as it adds up to 30 minutes or more, it’s fine. Who do we believe?

Dear Stopwatch,

We used to believe your doctor. Now we believe your husband’s.

The bottom line is that your 30 minutes of walking five days a week doesn’t have to be in one session.

In 2018, the CDC said three 10-minute sessions has the same healthful benefits. Park a 10-minute walk from work, walk to and from work, and then walk for 10 minutes before lunch. Bam! You’ve done your 30 minutes.

2019 guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services urged Americans “to exercise even if it is just for a few minutes at a time.”

Now, according to the updated physical activity guidelines published in JAMA, “Even two minutes of any physical activity — taking the stairs, walking the dog, or carrying out the trash — can add up to significant health benefits, such as improved blood pressure, enhanced brain function, and reduced risk of cancer and weight gain.”

A 2015 study found that people who replaced “some of their sitting time with a light-intensity activity like strolling gained a substantial benefit in terms of mortality risk.” In fact, if participants “replaced as little as two minutes of sitting each hour with gentle walking, they lowered their risk of premature death by about 33%, compared with people who sat almost nonstop.”

A study in Circulation of adults age 45 to 64 suggested that individuals “can make up for years of sedentary behavior with two years of exercise.” In fact, participants who had worked out at least four days a week with a regimen of weight training, balance work, and yoga had healthier hearts and arteries and were fitter.

A 2019 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found “that replacing just 30 minutes of sitting with any kind of movement, every day, could help” people have a longer life. The study reported that “getting up for half an hour of light activity — like walking, when a person would usually be sitting — corresponded to an estimated 17% lower risk of early death.” The study also found that “the same amount of moderate or vigorous exercise corresponded to about a 35% lower mortality risk.”

I encourage you to find a walking partner (which could also include a pet) and a safe place to walk. Some people find walking is conducive to thinking and chatting. A partner also makes every walk a bit safer. A safe place to walk is also requisite. Safety not only means safe from people but vehicles also. With more people driving while distracted, keep your distance from vehicles.

The great thinker and poet Henry David Thoreau wrote, “An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” So, get out early, keep it simple, walk as much, and as often, as you can. Walking is great for your body, so take a walk today. Get off your butt — it’s killing you!

You can learn more about overcoming the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle (or what some call, “Sitting Disease”) in my books, Fit over 50: Make Simple Choices for a Healthier, Happier You or 10 Essentials of Highly Healthy People.



© Copyright WLL, INC. 2022. This blog provides healthcare tips and advice that you can trust about a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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