A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests that even a little walking can significantly reduce mortality risk, compared with inactivity.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, or 75 minutes of intense physical activity, each week to reap “substantial” health benefits.
Mental health is also believed to benefit from a more active lifestyle, as exercise improves cognitive function and reduces the likelihood of having depression.
The Guidelines also emphasize the fact that “some physical activity is better than none” — and a new study further strengthens this message.
The research, led by Alpa V. Patel, Ph.D., strategic director of the Cancer Prevention Study-3 for the American Cancer Society (ACS), focuses on the most common and accessible form of physical activity: walking.
The study found that even levels of walking that do not meet the national recommendations still lower the risk of premature death by a considerable amount.
Studying the benefits of walking
Dr. Patel and her research team examined data from almost 140,000 people who took part in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort. Of the participants, 6–7 percent said that they did not take part in any moderate or vigorous physical activity at the beginning of the study.
As many as 95 percent of the remaining participants said that they did some walking, and for almost half of them, walking was the only type of moderate to vigorous physical activity they engaged in.
The team adjusted for other risk factors that might have influenced the results, such as obesity, smoking, and chronic illnesses.