Regular walking reduces the risk of death in older adults, even when they do less than the amount recommended by national guidelines, according to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Walking is the most common physical activity for older women and men. Guidelines recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity (like brisk walking)—or 75 minutes of vigorous activity— for optimal health. However, only about 40% of people 65 to 74 meet this goal.
The study focused on about 140,000 women and men, average age about 70. The researchers tracked the participants’ health habits from 1999 to 2012 and kept tabs on how many people died from any cause. The study focused on walking time, as opposed to other forms of exercises such as swimming, jogging, and tennis.
Even those who fell short of the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate activity still benefitted, the study suggests. People in the study who didn’t get any exercise at all were 26% more likely to die during 13 years of follow up, compared with walkers who got less than 120 minutes in per week (less than 20 minutes per day).