|Photo by Justin Horrocks, NPR.org|
“Going for a walk at an average to brisk pace can provide people with a tremendous health benefit. It’s free, easy, and can be done anywhere,” Alpa Patel, lead investigator of the study, told Cancer Society reporter Stacy Simon.
The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, analyzed data from a study of almost 140,000 people who had participated in the society's Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort. The average age of participants in the study was 69.
The study report notes previous studies have found that walking has been associated with lowering the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It adds that physical inactivity accounts for about 11 percent of the health-care costs in the U.S.
Public-health guidelines say adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, spread throughout the week. Only half of U.S. adults meet this recommendation, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And while the study found that those who met or exceeded the recommended level of physical activity through walking had a 20 percent lower mortality risk, it also found that older adults who walked less than two hours per week had a lower death risk than those who got no exercise at all.
Patel told Nick Mulcahy of Medscape that the study evaluated walking at "an average pace," which is a speed that "may cause you to eventually feel a slight increase in your breathing and will allow you to cover roughly a mile in 20 minutes."
"Walking is simple, free and does not require any training, and thus is an ideal activity for most Americans, especially as they age," says the report.