Brisk is better

Jan 26, 2014

The National Walkers' Health Study recently conducted the largest known study about walkers. It was administered to 40,000 different walkers, mostly middle age. Some walkers were slow and some were nearly jogging. Gretchen Reynolds joined us to talk about the findings. Reynolds is a health reporter for the New York Times and author of "The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer".

Click Read More to hear our interview with Gretchen Reynolds.

The National Walkers' Health Study followed up to see how many of the walkers had died by the end of the study, and the question became: how well does walking prevent premature death? Does walking really help people live longer?

It's not just 30 minutes

The study found that those who walked faster were more likely still alive. While it’s true that if you’re unhealthy, you may not be able to walk very fast, those who walked fast were far less likely to have suffered a heart attack, to have died from complications related to diabetes or dementia.

If you’re walking for health, if you want to improve, you need to walk at a brisk pace. If you can talk and walk, but can’t sing and walk, you know that you’re moving at an appropriate pace.

Keep it up, your heart rate that is

Reynolds thinks the most interesting point from the study was that slower walkers were covering a lot of area. They were essentially spending as much energy over the course of the day as the brisk walkers, but they were still at higher risk of premature death.

The best way of estimating how briskly you are exercising is to be honest with yourself. Ask yourself how this exercise feels to you, on a scale of one to 10 (you should be around six or seven). Your estimation is usually in keeping with your heart rate. Reynolds points out that science shows it’s a reliable way of determining if you’re exercising vigorously or not.

As more large scale studies are released to the public, and examined by experts in their fields, one thing remains constant:

“I think what we are going to see is that the human body needs to move and it’s better if you move a little bit more quickly,” Reynolds says.