The benefits of physical activity are well known. The Canadian Cardiovascular Society recommends doing at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise in order to reap benefits such as maintaining a healthy body weight and strong bones, preventing heart disease and several types of cancer, controlling stress and improving mood. The problem is that the concept of “moderate intensity” is not clearly defined.
Walking is a popular exercise choice, since it can be practiced virtually anywhere, can be integrated into everyday activities, costs almost nothing and requires no special skills. While a pedometer – a small unit that counts the number of steps walked – is useful in determining the distance covered, it doesn’t identify the intensity of the effort. And yet, is a leisurely stroll enough to properly activate the body? Apparently not.
A team of American researchers monitored the oxygen consumption and heart rates of approximately 100 individuals (average age: 32) as they walked on a treadmill. They concluded that for most individuals, a pace of about 100 steps per minute produces a moderate-intensity effort.
The authors came to the following formula: 100 steps/minute x 30 minutes = one moderate-intensity workout
If you prefer, you can also begin with 1,000 steps in ten minutes, three times per day, and gradually increase to 3,000 steps in 30 minutes. A small caveat, however: while the 100 steps per minute target is appropriate for healthy young walkers, it does not apply to everyone. For example, overweight individuals work more intensely than others when they walk, because they have to carry their excess weight. You must therefore adjust your pace accordingly.
Regular exercise is an essential factor in physical and mental well-being, and brisk walking is a great way to get back in shape or stay fit… if you do it at the right intensity!