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Walking – how fast and how far?

You may have seen headlines recently questioning whether 10,000 steps a day really is the magic number for increased healthspan.

For many older adults, aiming for 10,000 steps a day is unachievable, so they will welcome the news that 6,000-8,000 steps has just the same health benefits for the over 60s.

You may already know that walking is incredibly good for you, but did you know that it has an amazing anti-ageing effect on the body too. Research involving 50,000 participants by the University of Massachusetts showed that walking helps keep you younger for longer. This is due to the effect it has on the length of our telomeres, the protective caps on our chromosomes. They naturally shorten as we age leading to an increase in health problems, but we can prevent our telomeres shrinking by walking regularly.

But what if you can’t achieve this many steps every day? The good news is that every step counts. Start by trying to increase your daily total by 500 steps and gradually increase this as you improve. If you can’t get out and about, look to improve your leg strength by going up and down stairs regularly throughout the day or doing 10 sit to stands every time you boil the kettle to make a cuppa.

If you are already a keen walker, look at ways to add in an extra challenge which could be increasing the speed you walk. Fitness trackers are a great way to see how many steps you are doing but you can work this out by counting how many steps you take in one minute.  100 steps per minute is approximately 2.7mph and counts as brisk walking. Or simply take note of how walking briskly feels for you. Aim to walk at a pace where you feel warmer, your heart is beating faster and you are breathing harder but not getting out of breath.

One way to get a really good workout is to walk uphill and this is a great way to burn more calories too. And if you can walk outside, it’s a brilliant way to boost your mood and improve your sleep pattern too.

Check that you’re wearing suitable footwear with good cushioning and support especially if you are walking over uneven ground.

You can find local walks or team up with a walking buddy at The Ramblers.


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