People with busy work schedules often make excuses when it’s time to work out. According to research, briskly walking 8,000 or more steps every day weekly is linked to a significant decrease in all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.
And if that’s still too much for you, a recent study has shown that people who take 8,000 steps one or two days a week are also less likely to die over a 10-year follow-up period.
The results of the study were published in the journal JAMA Network Open and was led by Dr. Kosuke Inoue of Kyoto University in Japan. It involves collaboration with researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Upon examining data from volunteers, the researchers discovered that people 20 years or older who took 8,000 or more steps one or two days a week were 14.9 percent less likely to die prematurely compared to others who were sedentary. The risk of death also decreased as the number of days of walking increased.
To illustrate, exercising for three to seven days a week was linked to a 16.5 percent reduction in all-cause and cardiovascular deaths. The same pattern was also true for individuals who managed to walk 6,000 to 10,000 steps.
According to earlier studies, walking up to 10,000 steps per day decreases mortality risk for those younger than 60 and 8,000 steps for those older than 60.
Exercise tips for “weekend warriors”
The study’s findings apply to “weekend warriors,” or those who only exercise on non-work days, and individuals who take time to walk during the week.
The study referenced recent data showing that the average American takes only 4,800 steps a day, which is not enough to provide a significant health benefit.
“Brisk walking” refers to walking three miles an hour. If you can recite song lyrics easily, but run out of breath trying to sing them, you are walking briskly.
The study compared data from the 2005 and 2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey with the National Death Index up to the year 2019. The survey incorporated accelerometer data from 3,101 volunteers 20 or older and was a nationally representative sample.
It included a similar number of male and female participants:
- 50.9 percent were White
- 21.5 percent were Black
- 23.7 percent were Hispanic
- 3.9 percent were another race and ethnicity
The active walkers typically included those who never smoked and were less likely to be obese or have comorbidities.
Try to walk at least 8,000 steps a day, recommend researchers
Walking 8,000 steps a day can seem daunting for many people, especially since it requires a significant time commitment.
A total of 8,000 steps is equal to about four miles. If you walk three miles per hour, this comes to a total of about an hour and 20 minutes every day. If that seems too tiring, you can take steps simultaneously or in shorter periods of brisk walking.
Inoue explained that the study was conducted to answer a question that a patient asked him: “It is hard for me to keep sufficient steps every day. Is it okay to focus on walking only during the weekend?”
Steps studies often factor in the value of a week’s worth of various step goals, but Inoue noticed a lack of evidence about the possible health benefits of walking for only several days a week. (Related: Walking for 5 minutes every half hour can help you stay healthy if you sit all day, reveals study.)
According to Inoue, not having enough time is a major obstacle for those who want to exercise more. The results of the study offered useful information “to recommend walking even for a couple of days per week to reduce mortality risk.”
Dr. Paul Arciero, a professor in the Health and Human Physiological Sciences Department at Skidmore College, said this study is one of the first to use direct measures of daily steps using a wearable accelerometer over a 10-year follow-up period. Arciero was not involved in the study.
Benefits of walking for overall well-being
Walking is a low-impact activity that can help make your life less sedentary. This is important because studies have proven that a sedentary lifestyle has been associated with an increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.
Arciero added that having a sedentary lifestyle significantly increases your risk of cardiometabolic disease like abdominal obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), heart disease, stroke, certain inflammatory conditions and cancers.
Aside from boosting your heart health, walking also offers other surprising benefits, such as:
- Offsetting the effect of weight-promoting genes. In one study, researchers looked at 32 obesity-promoting genes in over 12,000 people to find out how they contribute to body weight. Among the study participants who walked briskly for at least one hour daily, the effects of those genes were reduced by 50 percent.
- It can also reduce arthritis-based joint pain. Research suggests that walking five to six miles a week can help protect against arthritis. Experts say this is possible because walking protects the joints by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that support them.
Exercise tips for people with a busy schedule
Inoue hopes that the results of the study can provide valuable information for clinicians and health professionals alike.
He added that if you have trouble sticking to a regular gym routine, “achieving recommended daily steps only a couple of days per week can have meaningful health benefits.”
Meanwhile, Arciero thinks the study’s conclusions are “encouraging” and that it can help individuals who don’t have enough time to walk 8,000 steps daily overcome the feeling that walking less isn’t worth it.
Arciero added that the study highlights the importance of increasing your daily step count, especially since “any amount of walking, even one to two days per week, is still better than no walking.”
If you are one of those people who want to exercise more but can’t find the motivation to start, try the tips below:
Set early alarms
If you really want to be more disciplined when it comes to exercising, start by setting up an alarm, or several alarms, so you can work out early in the day.
But this doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice sleep to exercise. To make things easier for yourself, reset your sleep schedule and wake up earlier.
Exercise on your commute
If you don’t have time for a morning run, brisk walk or jog to work instead.
If you prefer another activity, you can bike to work. You can also cut your bus trip short and walk the rest of the way to your office.
Turn TV time into a workout
Make the most of your free time by combining exercise with an episode or two of your favorite TV show.
Clear up some space between your couch and the TV and move your dumbbells or other fitness equipment near the TV so you can grab your gear and avoid making excuses.
Exercise while walking up a flight of stairs
Instead of walking leisurely up a flight of stairs, gradually increase your speed and the number of steps you take in one minute. Make sure you do this carefully to avoid accidents, though.
If you can do so safely and without hurting yourself, take two steps at once. This can help target your glutes even more.
Visit Heart.news for more articles on how to improve your heart health.
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