The benefits of walking to slow aging

You shouldn’t overlook incorporating a walking program into your ongoing health and fitness regime to slow the aging process, as walking provides many of the benefits of aerobic exercise.

It is an enjoyable exercise that most people can easily and safely perform at any time of the day, all year round.

Taking every opportunity to walk a bit further and/or a bit harder soon adds up to better health outcomes.

A regular brisk walking program will improve your aerobic fitness, lower your blood pressure, improve your blood lipid profile and lower your blood glucose levels. All of these physiological changes will reduce your future risk of having a heart attack or stroke, developing diabetes, and developing some cancers by 30-50%.

How to set walking goals

Like any slow solution, walking should have specific targets and outcomes.

A pedometer provides a simple way of quantifying your daily walking program by counting each step you take by registering the impact as your feet hit the ground. It also provides a simple method to assess your current activity level, and acts as a motivational tool to increase your activity.

Sedentary individuals will accumulate less than 5,000 steps per day. Everyone should have their own target based on their age and level of fitness, but a general goal should be to walk at least 10,000 steps every day.

Based on the average step length of 0.8 meters, walking a kilometer is equivalent to about 1,200 steps.

If you don’t have a pedometer, you can set a distance- or a time-based goal as an alternative to a step count. For example, to get another 2,500 steps, park the car 1 km or 10-15 minutes’ walk away from your workplace.

Some tips to optimize walking

You should start every exercise session with a brief warm up.

Start your walking program by walking at a gentle pace. Over the following few weeks, increase the number of steps you take or the distance you cover in each session so you achieve a daily minimum of 10,000 steps.

Remember to include some variety in your program to make it fun, such as walking along the beach or in the hills as appropriate. Include some longer walks on the weekend when you may have more time.

After each walking session, ‘cool down’ by undertaking some slower walking for 5 minutes and do some stretching exercises.

Once you are routinely achieving 10,000 steps per day, try to increase your walking speed, include some hilly terrain on your route, or aim for 15,000 steps.

By increasing your walking pace or effort you can aim to increase your heart rate to keep most of the session within your target heart rate zone.  As you become fitter include some intermittent jogging as part of your daily walking program.

Keep challenging yourself – it’s the only way you will improve! Take a look at the program below to get started.

A model walking program

Below we explain a walking program for beginner, intermediate and advanced walkers:

Beginner

No recent physical activity and current step count averages fewer than 5,000 steps a day

Monday: Minimum of 5,000 additional steps (Daily target: 10,000 steps)

Tuesday: Alternate activity or rest

Wednesday: Minimum of 5,000 additional steps (Daily target: 10,000 steps)

Thursday: Minimum of 5,000 additional steps (Daily target: 10,000 steps)

Friday: Alternate activity or rest

Saturday: Minimum of 5,000 additional steps (Daily target: 10,000 steps)

Sunday: Longer walk to achieve 6,000 additional steps (Daily target: 11,000 steps)

Intermediate

Some recent but possibly infrequent physical activity and current step count averages more than 5,000 steps per day

Monday: Minimum of 7,000 additional steps incorporating some hills (Daily target: 12,500 steps)

Tuesday: Alternate activity such as swimming or cycling

Wednesday: Minimum of 7,500 additional steps (Daily target: 12,500 steps)

Thursday: Minimum of 7,500 additional brisk steps (Daily target: 12,500 steps)

Friday: Alternate activity or rest

Saturday: Minimum of 7,500 additional steps (Daily target: 12,500 steps)

Sunday: Longer slow walk to achieve 8,000 additional steps (Daily target: 14,000 steps)

Advanced

Regular exercise with a current step count averaging more than 6,000 steps per day

Monday: Minimum of 8,000 additional steps incorporating some hilly terrain (Daily target: 15,000 steps)

Tuesday: Alternate activity such as swimming or cycling

Wednesday: Minimum of 9,000 additional steps, brisk walking (Daily target: 15,000 steps)

Thursday: Minimum of 8,000 additional steps incorporating some hilly terrain (Daily target: 15,000 steps)

Friday: Minimum of 7,000 additional steps of walk-jog intervals (Daily target: 15,000 steps)

Saturday: Minimum of 8,000 additional steps incorporating some hilly terrain (Daily target: 15,000 steps)

Sunday: Longer walk to achieve 10,000 steps (Daily target: 16,000 steps)

 

Last Reviewed 31/Mar/2017

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