Is Walking Enough?
Better Step Lively
Not just a walk in the park continued...
One recent study, appearing in the June 30 Mortality and
Morbidity Weekly Review, offers some support for Williams' contention. The
researchers surveyed people who walk for exercise and found that only 26%
walked briskly enough to achieve the "moderate intensity level"
recommended by the U.S. surgeon general. In addition, a mere 34% walked the
recommended four times or more a week.
Williams' studies at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory suggest that
the real health payoff comes to exercisers who crank up both the intensity and
duration of a workout. In ongoing research with 55,000 runners from around the
country, Williams has found that the more miles runners cover -- up to a very
rigorous 40 miles a week -- the lower their risk of heart disease.
"The more exercise you do, and the more vigorous it is, the
more you benefit," says Williams, whose findings were published in the
January 1997 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.
How hard is hard?
So how strenuous should exercise be? How long is the ideal
exercise session? And how many minutes of exercise should we strive for each
This is still the subject of intense debate. But two new
studies should help provide better guidelines. Advocates of exercise lite have
long argued that you can piece together 3 or 4 shorter sessions of 10 or 15
minutes of activity and get the same benefits as a sustained hour workout --
and it seems they're right. In a study published in the September issue of
Circulation, researchers surveyed more than 7,000 men. Those who said
they typically worked out in several short sessions of about 15 minutes were
assessed as being just as healthy as those who did their exercise in one long
What appeared to matter, the study found, was how vigorously
people exercised and the total amount of time they spent doing it. Therefore,
anyone who wants to lower his or her risk of heart disease may need to fulfill
the surgeon general's recommendation of exercising a minimum of 30 minutes at
moderate intensity for at least four days of the week, in any cumulative
Pick up the pace
If you're a lounge lizard whose idea of exercise is picking up
the remote control, then walking a little every day will make you
healthier and increase your odds of living a long life. But don't think you can
shuffle along and call it exercise.
"When we say brisk, we mean brisk," says Andrea Dunn,
her arms pumping as she powers her way down the corridor as I hurry alongside
to keep up. "We're talking about walking fast enough to cover at least
three and a half miles an hour. A brisk walk is the way you'd walk if you were
hurrying to catch a bus or to get in from the cold. It's walking fast enough so
that you begin to feel winded."