What if keeping your figure was as simple as going for a walk? A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concludes, “Walking through adulthood may attenuate the long-term weight gain that occurs in most adults.” This is great news, considering how accessible walking is for most people.
The new study examined the relationship between the amount and frequency of walking—summarized by a “walking score”—and weight gain over a period of 15 years in 5,115 people who took part in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. A walking score of “0” was given to those who didn’t walk for exercise at all, while a score of “144” was given to people who regularly walked for four or more hours per week (about one half hour per day).
Tell the pounds to take a walk
The researchers found that the more people walked, the less weight they gained over the years—an inverse relationship between walking and weight gain. The association was strongest for women who were overweight at the start of the study; in this group, women with the highest walking scores gained 8 kg (almost 18 lbs) less than women with the lowest scores.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that healthy adults under age 65 get at least 30 minutes per day of moderate-intensity exercise, five days per week. If you’re looking to lose weight, 60 to 90 minutes, five days a week might be necessary. During moderate-intensity activity, your heart rate will rise and you’ll break a sweat, but you will still be able to carry on a conversation.
Physical activity tends to decrease with age, with reports of declines of around 50% between the ages of 18 and 37. Walking is a simple way to achieve the recommended 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week. “Adding between two and four hours of walking per week are clearly achievable targets,” said the study’s authors.
Keep up the good walk
Don’t sweat it: To maintain and keep a healthy weight, you don’t have to do all your walking in one stretch. Three 10-minute brisk walks will have the same effect as a 30-minute stint, making it easier to reach your exercise goals.
Take a friend: Make a regular walking date with a friend to help keep you motivated, especially in the colder winter months.
Invest in a pedometer: This simple device that counts your daily steps can keep you on track for reaching your daily 10,000 steps—the equivalent of walking a total of about five miles per day during your daily exercise and other activities.
(Am J Clin Nutr 2009;89:1–V8)
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND
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