Is Walking Enough?
Better Step Lively
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."
If walking is your exercise of choice, Dunn recommends mapping
out a one-mile course. (You can drive the route in your car using the odometer
or walk around a track at the local high school.) Then clock yourself while
walking one mile. If you cover the distance in 15 minutes or less, you're
walking briskly. "Believe me, we're not talking about strolling down the
boulevard," says Dunn, sounding just a tad winded herself. "And we're
not talking about stopping to smell the roses."
Peter Jaret, a freelance writer based in Petaluma, Calif., has
written for Health, Hippocrates, and many other national publications.
He is a contributing editor for WebMD.