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Walking Is Considered Exercise—But Only If You Take This Many Steps Per Hour

Walking Is Considered Exercise—But Only If You Take This Many Steps Per Hour

New research confirms that walking is an effective exercise routine, as long as you're hitting these metrics.

Walking is one of the most pleasant ways to get active, and nearly anyone—even those who don't want to shell out membership fees for gyms or fitness classes—can get in on the action. We've previously learned that any form of walking is beneficial to your health and fitness, whether it's a trip around the block or a miles-long trail hike, but a new study suggests there's actually a magic number of steps to aim for if you're truly looking to shed pounds while walking.

The research, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, included data on each participants age, BMI, heart rate, and breathing rate so they could learn of any correlation between walking and overall health.

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After some digging, researchers discovered that 100 steps per minute (about 2.7 miles per hour) is magic formula for it to be considered moderate exercise, where your heart rate increases by 50 to 70 percent. When you break it down, it's just under 2 steps per second, which definitely sounds doable for a healthy individual.

The study's co-author, Dr. Catrine Tudor-Locke, told the New York Times that this rate applies to anyone under the age of 60. There's a small catch, though. Currently, federal guidelines say that Americans should exercise at least for 30 minutes each day, so you'd need to ensure that you get those 3,000 steps in within that time period.

“The good news is that this pace will probably not feel strenuous to most healthy people,” Dr. Tudor-Locke said. The same research says that for those looking for a challenging workout should raise their step count to 130 per minute, as this rate officially counts as "vigorous."

But for those who are looking for a smoother, easier way to work on their fitness, simply hitting 100 steps per minute will do wonders for your health. We've always been about getting in those steps wherever you go, but this bit of news proves that keeping fit can be as easy as putting one foot in front of the other.

Exercise at Age 75: How Much Walking?

Time waits for no couch potato. Whether you're a shuffler or a sprinter, get out there and get moving. Walking is one of the easiest, most accessible exercises for seniors and, at age 75, you could be adding years to your life and prolonging vigor and independence with a daily stroll. Start by checking in with your health-care provider for an all-clear, lace up a decent pair of sneakers, grab a willing friend and burn some rubber on a neighborhood sidewalk or at the mall.

Start Out Slow

If you're new to aerobic exercise, it takes time for your body to get into shape, which is why walking is such an ideal starting point. This low impact exercise allows you to begin to build both strength and endurance gradually, which is why three, 20-minute sessions per week work well if you're starting from a place of relative inactivity.

Most experts agree you should tap 50-70% of your maximum heart rate for moderate-intensity aerobic benefit, but this sweet spot varies from one person to the next. If you're not fit, it won't take much for your heart to reach this level, which is why a 20-minute walk, three times a week, may be just the right amount of exercise. During your walk, to test whether your heart rate is in the ideal aerobic zone, you should be able to have a quick conversation of six or seven words, and not struggle to catch your breath with every step.

To find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220.

A Walking Habit that Works for You

It is hard to get started on an exercise program. Maybe you don't know where to begin, or you think that exercise is complicated and you don't feel motivated to learn how to do it. It can certainly be confusing to hear other people talking about their exercise routines if you do not have one yourself.

Let me assure you that as soon as all of your questions and concerns are answered, you will be able to create a routine that will eventually turn into a habit. Walking for exercise will no longer be something that you dread doing. It will become something that you look forward to every day because it will make you feel better.

People who are just starting out with a new walking exercise routine often have a lot of questions and concerns. Sometimes the number of questions that people have actually kept them from getting started in the first place. Rather than answering these questions individually, I want to address them all together so that anyone who is looking to begin walking for exercise can have all of their questions answered in one place.

Getting exercise certainly does not have to be complicated. Even doing something that you already do every day by taking a brisk walk can improve your health. For example, going for a quick walk each day can help you:

  • Prevent cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Reduce body fat.
  • Strengthen your body.
  • Improve your coordination.
  • Improve your balance.
  • Improve your mood.

Walking is a very important part of keeping your body in top physical shape. It helps to keep your blood circulating in a healthy way, and it requires you to put into action the muscles that will be needed for your long-term health and wellness.

So, what are some of the lesser-known benefits of walking? A few of them include:

Consider your shoes so you are able to be comfortable during your walks. Also, remember that changing up your pace and your incline, and even walking backward can help keep your muscles guessing and increase the number of calories and amount of fat you are able to burn.

Get your walking over with in the morning so you can continue on with your healthy habits for the rest of the day. Start small, but work your way up to longer walks as you get accustomed to the exercise.

'Knitting is my only activity'

For The Truth about Getting Fit, I went to a factory in Sheffield with Prof Rob Copeland from Sheffield Hallam University.

Our aim was to do a small experiment in which we would compare the benefits and ease of doing 10,000 steps against something called, "Active 10".

With Active 10 you don't need to count steps. You simply aim to do three brisk 10-minute walks a day.

Our volunteers all had different reasons for wanting to get fitter.

Dave said: "I'm very aware that I'm not as fit as I used to be and I've put a lot of weight on," while Judy confessed: "My only activity at the moment is knitting."

And Nathan, who has a six-year-old daughter, said: "She runs so fast, and I run so slowly, I can't catch her up."

Our small group of volunteers was fitted with activity monitors so we could not only monitor what they did, but also how vigorously they did it.

First, a normal day's activity was measured.

Rob then split them into two groups. One was asked to hit the 10,000-step target - around five miles - in a day, while the other group was asked to do three sessions of "Active 10" - which adds up to around 1.5 miles - more like 3,000 steps.

The Active 10 group were also told that their aim was not to amble but to get their pace up so that they would be working their heart and lungs. Prof Copeland told them: "You are aiming to walk fast enough so that you can still talk but not sing."

  1. Talking on the phone (Learn to always stand or walk while on the phone.)
  2. Cooking dinner – while waiting for things to: boil, bake, thaw, or microwave.
  3. TV Commercials.
  4. Listening to the Radio.
  5. When you have some free time – set your clock timer to 5 minutes and get walking.
  6. Take a quick walk around the house before you do the dinner dishes.
  7. Listen to Audio Books
  8. While Thinking
  9. While Dusting
  10. Baking a Cake
  11. Before Breakfast
  12. After Dinner

Many people will think that just walking around the house couldn’t possibly be beneficial to your health, but it is! Sitting for long periods of time has been proven to be just as bad for you as smoking. So even if you are just getting up and moving around the house you are already doing wonders for your long-term health.

Take A Swing At This: Golf Is Exercise, Cart Or No Cart

Even golfers using a motorized cart can burn about 1,300 calories and walk 2 miles when playing 18 holes.

When we asked adults who play sports which one they play the most, golf topped the list. That's right: Our poll finds that a day on the links beat out soccer, softball and tennis.

My first reaction was: Whaaat? Golf is played by people riding around in motorized carts how much exercise could you possibly get?

So, with a fair amount of skepticism, I ventured out to Sligo Creek Golf Course, a municipal course in Silver Spring, Md., to try to answer this question.

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The first golfer I met came striding off the 9th hole, pushing her clubs with a pushcart. Sweat covered her brow. "No cart?" I asked.

Nope, Kelly James told me. "I've gotten well over 10,000 steps playing golf," she said. And that's not all. The game's full of athletic moves.

"You're swinging — big swings — to drive the ball," James says. That uses lots of muscles. "There's even a little yoga," she says, if you consider the balancing, and the turning and twisting of the torso — and the overall meditative aspect of being on the course.

Ryo Ishikawa, one of Japan's biggest golf stars, demonstrates his swing on the pro tour in February. Donald Miralle/Getty Images hide caption

Ryo Ishikawa, one of Japan's biggest golf stars, demonstrates his swing on the pro tour in February.

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Hmm, I thought. Maybe I'd underestimated the game.

The World Golf Foundation estimates that golfers who walk an 18-hole course clock about 5 miles and burn up to 2,000 calories.

But here's the rub: About two-thirds of golf in the U.S. is played in motorized carts. Some resorts and private courses even restrict walking and require carts.

Why is the cart culture so dominant? There are lots of reasons, according to Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation. For example, carts are a source of revenue for golf clubs. They enable golf facilities "to get more people on the course and get them around the course faster," Mona says.

Players pose at the Thunderbird Golf Club, in Palm Springs, Calif., in 1956, when golf carts were first gaining popularity. Loomis Dean/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images hide caption

Players pose at the Thunderbird Golf Club, in Palm Springs, Calif., in 1956, when golf carts were first gaining popularity.

Loomis Dean/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Another reason: Carts can help older people and others unable to walk long distances keep playing the game.

"I started playing when I was 9 years old," golfer Gary Metzger told me. And over his lifetime, he says, he's played a lot of sports. But after two hip replacement surgeries and operations on his knees, "it's one of the few things I can still do." What Metzger loves about the game, he says, is that "it's the one sport you can plan to play the rest of your life."

Walking Golfer's Guide To Best Courses

So, cart golfing isn't your scene? The Walking Golfer website can help you find some of the best courses around the country for making great strides on the links.

Rob Rigg, of the Walking Golfers Society, says the game originated as a walking game, and "even today, in Great Britain and Ireland, along with Australia, golf is almost always played on foot."

He says walking during the game is "a vital part of the journey." The society bases its course rankings on votes submitted by members and the public. There's a lot of variety at the top.

"They range from walking-only resorts like Bandon Dunes," Rigg says, "to walking-focused clubs like Ballyneal in eastern Colorado, to CommonGround near Denver, which has a wonderful youth caddie program." The list also includes municipal courses, like San Diego's Torrey Pines, Rigg says, "where walking is encouraged, and push- or pullcarts are always welcome."

I clipped a pedometer on Gary's golf partner, his wife, Karen, to see how many steps she'd get during a round of golf using a cart.

She surprised me, clocking 2,880 steps — more than a mile — during nine holes. "Wow, that's great," Karen said, when she saw the number.

Mona says that the distance she covered is pretty typical. The distance can vary — better golfers, with more accurate shots, may walk less than golfers who have to chase after more shots in the rough — but the foundation's research finds that even golfers using a motorized cart can burn about 1,300 calories during an 18-hole round.

"There are lots of places you can't take a cart," Mona explains. You can't take it on the teeing grounds, the greens or in the bunkers. "There's still a lot of walking involved even if you're riding in a cart."

There's also a mental boost for lots of players. "There's rarely a bad day on the golf course," Gary Metzger says. "You're breathing good air and looking around at the nice scenery."

And this stress-relieving benefit, people in our poll told us, is one of their top motivations for staying in the game.

Benefits of daily walks

Walking can be a good way for you to stay healthy. When you take up walking daily, your health can improve dramatically. Here are some powerful benefits of walking every day for 30 minutes:

  • Improved digestion. Walking can help keep you regular.
  • Mood improvement. Walking daily helps reduce depression, anxiety, and even insomnia. Bonus points if you&rsquore walking outside with a friend. Walking in the sunlight will fight off seasonal affective disorder.
  • Reduction in health risks such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and some cancers.
  • Weight loss and improved body composition. When you start walking daily you might begin to see yourself losing weight. Even if the scale doesn&rsquot move much, watch for inches to slip away as your body composition improves.
  • Improved creativity. Researchers have found that going for a walk can help you come up with solutions to problems, which means your lunch break at work is the perfect time to take a walk.
  • Reduced or improved varicose veins in your legs.

How long should you walk, and how often?

So you&rsquore convinced. It&rsquos time to take up a daily walking routine. But how long should you walk and how often? It depends on what you want to achieve. To decrease health risks such as heart disease, you need to exercise at a moderate level for 30 minutes at least four days a week. Fortunately, this doesn&rsquot mean you need to get on the treadmill and stay there for 30 minutes. Researchers have found that it&rsquos the total time spent exercising daily that matters, even if your 30 minutes is split up in 10-minute increments throughout the day. Walking is the perfect form of exercise to split up this way. If you live close enough, take a short walk to work. Walk over to a friend&rsquos house instead of driving. Those small increments of walking add up.

Leisurely stroll, or brisk pace?

One of the biggest downfalls of thinking about walking as exercise is our tendency to think that walking means easy. To get the benefits of walking, you need to be working at it. No leisurely strolls around the neighborhood while you stop to talk with your neighbors. You should be walking at a brisk pace. The aim is to be walking at least three and a half miles an hour. Which means setting your treadmill to 3.5 if you&rsquore walking inside or aiming for more steps if you&rsquore wearing a pedometer.

1. Meal plan changes

Fleming’s initial goal was to lose 20 pounds. She replaced two of her meals with protein shakes, and then ate a light dinner: typically, a grilled chicken breast with vegetables like peas and carrots, corn or green beans.

“I lost 20 pounds in two months,” she said. “I stuck with it and I haven’t looked back.”

Fleming calculated how much she should be eating with the help of the My Fitness Pal app, which recommended consuming 1,550 calories a day. She’s kept that limit in place since she started, though she sometimes eats 200 or 300 calories less than that goal.

She sticks to a low-sodium, low-carb, low-saturated fat diet and doesn’t eat many sweets. To change things up, she’ll sometimes have oatmeal, or snack on small pre-packaged chips, granola bars or pudding.

“I don’t really have cravings and I’ve noticed since I’ve started my journey that I can’t eat as much as I used to,” she said.

This Is What 10,000 Steps A Day Really Looks Like

In June 2015, Amanda L. of Chambersburg, PA, hit her heaviest weight at 281 pounds. When her doctor diagnosed her with liver disease caused by being overweight, she decided it was time to make some changes. With the help of a Fitbit fitness tracker she started counting steps, and today, at age 35, she's lost nearly 100 pounds. Here's what it took to reach that 10,000-step benchmark every day.

Hitting 281 pounds was a wakeup call. I knew I had been gaining weight, but I hadn't realized how much. I was having pain in my knees and other medical issues when my doctor recommended a liver biopsy. I was diagnosed with nonalcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, and my weight was to blame. That was the final push I needed to do something differently. (Lose up to 15 pounds in just 30 days with this revolutionary superfood plan from the publisher of Prevention!)

I pretty much never exercised before. I have a dog, so I'd take him on short walks, and I did walk around a bit at work, but I ate whatever I wanted, whatever tasted good. I visited a weight loss clinic where I learned helpful tips, like switching to whole grains and packing healthy snacks for work so I wouldn't be tempted to stop for fast food. I joined a gym and started walking more. I couldn't do much more than 5 minutes on the bike or the elliptical before I was breathing heavily, but I slowly built up endurance. Now, I can do 45 minutes on cardio equipment.

A friend of mine told me about her Fitbit and how she used it to track what she ate. After doing some research, I bought the Charge HR model, which could help me count calories, steps, estimate how many calories I burned, and more. What I didn't realize was that it was going to be hard to hit 10,000 steps a day. "Oh, that's easy!" I remember thinking. But then I'd start walking and realize it's not easy.

So I started finding small ways to add steps to my day: parking in the farthest corner of a store's parking lot, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, using a different entrance at work so I had to walk farther to get to my desk. I walk to my local yoga studio instead of driving. If I'm walking to an appointment, I'll leave 15 minutes early and do an extra lap.

I also kept track of what I was eating. I learned that restaurant meals often contain a lot more calories than I realized. You think salads are healthy, but with fried chicken, cheese, and ranch dressing as toppings, some are as high in calories as a cheeseburger. Logging everything I ate helped teach me about making healthier choices. With these exercise and eating changes, I was losing around 5 to 6 pounds a week.

I've gone from wearing a size 22 pant to a size 8&mdashI had to totally replace my wardrobe. I'm down to 187 pounds, and my goal is to get to around 150 or 160 pounds. These last few pounds are really stubborn, and it's been going really slowly. I do Fitbit challenges with my friends to stay motivated.

I used to take six different medications a day, and now I'm down to just an anti-inflammatory for my knees. My latest liver test came back almost completely back to normal, and I don't have heartburn or high blood pressure anymore. And according to my Fitbit, my resting heart rate has improved. It's pretty neat to be able to track how my health is improving as I lose weight. Now, I have so much more energy&mdashI don't want to sit at home on the couch anymore.

Here's how Amanda gets to 10,000 steps (and sometimes as many as 14,000!) a day: