Welcome to another edition of the Doctor’s Note where we talk about what’s on our minds when it comes to your health. This week we’re going to talk about WALKING, a simple activity that has more health benefits than you might think!
Let’s get started.
I walk everyday at lunch and after dinner, but never really thought of it as “exercise” until recently. My idea of a workout was more hardcore: lifting weights, doing resistance training, etc. But I changed my tune when a doctor friend of mine gave me a recent article on the benefits of walking.
This study analyzed data from 20,000 people in the U.S. and 42 countries. They found that walking between 6,000 and 9,000 steps daily dramatically lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease, compared with people who walk 2,000 steps daily. Note: Cardiovascular disease is the leading killer worldwide for older adults.
The people who walked 6,000 to 9,000 steps a day had a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (which means heart attacks and strokes) by 40-50%. That’s a lot! Note: This study confirmed an earlier study I had read, from Vanderbilt University, demonstrating that walking 8,000 steps a day can lower a wide range of chronic health issues, not just cardiovascular.
The study also found that for every additional 1,000 steps, there was an incremental reduction in cardiovascular risk. The amazing thing is that there’s really no upper limit to this (although the study only went to 15,000 steps). This is good to know, because when I was in New York City, in one day I measured 40,000 steps! Note: I always thought 10,000 steps was something everyone should aim for each day, but interestingly the 10,000 steps per day isn’t really based on any scientific research at all.
Walking needs to be intentional and daily, with moderate-intensity, i.e. a brisk walk. A brisk walk is between 80 and 100 steps per minute. This is Zone 2 training. One way to know you’re in Zone 2 is you can comfortably talk as you walk.
This is important. Brisk walking is where you get the added health benefits. Results from a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine (September 12, 2022), found that brisk walkers had a 35 percent lower risk of dying, a 25 percent lower chance of developing heart disease or cancer, and a 30 percent lower risk of developing dementia, compared to those whose average pace was slower.
There’s also walking that just happens during the course of your day that can really add up.
- Taking the stairs versus the elevator
- Parking in the furthest parking spot when you’re at a store or work
You don’t have to swing your arms when you walk, although it may help you move faster and use other muscle groups. You can do “high knees” to get a little more out of your steps. It’s probably better than running. It’s definitely less traumatic on your joints. Note: The best thing about walking versus running is that you can go straight back to work without having to shower. It’s an easy fit into your normal routine.
Every Step Counts
I love fitness trackers. As you know, I love my Oura Ring. It tracks my steps along with my heart rate and recovery. Most smartphones have fitness trackers as well. FYI: 1,000 steps is about a half of a mile.
I was reading an article in The Wall Street Journal this past week, and it talked about these new walking clubs. Walking clubs are popping up all over the place in big cities. It’s a great way to socialize, meet new people, and get your exercise in all at the same time. There seems to be a pushback against the hardcore workout culture and a resurgence of going back to the basics. Simply walking. I like the fact you can walk in any weather, whether it be outside or inside. Note: A lot of times I’ll go to the mall and walk if it’s raining outside.
In my opinion, walking is as good as any gym membership, OrangeTheory, Spin Class, or CrossFit. Why do I say that? Because if you don’t like to go to the gym or attend classes on a daily basis, it is much better to choose WALKING. It’s convenient, it’s fun, and something you can easily commit to on a daily basis. Note: Most people stop exercising because they don’t like the idea of a gym membership or class schedule.
Get A Routine
My personal routine is:
- Wake up and drink a cup of coffee.
- Take Perfect Aminos.
- Do a 20-25 minute workout with light weights and bands. This includes jumping on my mini trampoline, stretching, pushups, pullups, body weight squats, and kettlebell exercises.
- Get in my Infrared Sauna.
- Take a cold shower.
That gets me ready for the day! Then, after a light lunch, I take a 30 minute brisk walk.
If the weather is nice, I’ll ride my bike after work. Then after dinner, go for another brisk walk, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. This helps to jumpstart my metabolism and aids with digesting the meal I just ate (which is usually my largest meal of the day). This sounds like a lot, but it’s really not. When you get into a routine, it just becomes natural. Note: Even if I miss the workout part, I always get the WALKING in. I believe this is key for healthy aging.
We need to walk more. It’s great for stress. It lowers your blood pressure, it helps you sleep. And believe it or not, it really works your core muscles.
A recent study at Harvard found some surprising benefits of walking. It counteracts the effects of weight promoting genes. About 32 obesity genes have been discovered. Walking cuts the effects of those genes by half! Your genetics are not your destiny! I say this all the time. It’s more dependent on your lifestyle and exercise.
Note:I believe that exercise (above everything else) is the most important thing you can do for your health. For weight loss, nutrition is more important. For overall health, nothing beats exercise. It’s been proven time and time again.
Walking also helps reduce your cravings for sugar. In that same Harvard study, it showed reduced risk of breast cancer (and I suspect all kinds of cancers). It eases joint pain, especially in the knees and hips (the most likely joints to get replaced). It prevents arthritis, because it increases the lubrication of the joints.
Walking boosts your immune function. A recent study found that those who walked 20 minutes a day, five days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised just one once a week, or less. That’s a lot! And if they did get sick, their sickness was much milder and of shorter duration.
Lastly, walking helps with digestion. We are always talking about GUT health. By just walking, you are stimulating your digestive tract to contract, allowing food to pass and waste to move through the intestines. This makes for more regular bowel movements and less gas and bloating throughout your gastrointestinal tract.
With all that said, I’m going to give you a prescription. Probably, the most important prescription I’ll ever give you. WALK DAILY.
Till next week.