There are many training variables that ultimately ensure that your workout will be an efficient one. When it comes to walking and health benefits, however, the intensity level during your exercise session is paramount. A 2013 study followed subjects over a nine year period from the National Walkers’ Health Study. Williams and Thompson looked at the intensity level used when walking in more than 16,000 individuals ranging in age from 18 to 80 years old, with the majority of subjects in their 40’s and 50’s. The researchers were trying to assess the dose-response relationship between walking intensity (minutes per mile) and the risk of all cause and cause-specific mortality. They eventually found that the risk for mortality actually decreases in association with walking pace (intensity) and increases substantially when walking pace is greater than a 24 minute/mile pace (which is equivalent to <400 meters covered during a 6-minute walk test). Subjects who walked slower than the 24 minute/mile pace had a 44.3% greater risk for all-cause mortality and increased mortality due to CVD, diabetes, nervous system diseases, and dementia.
The take away from this study is the faster you walk, whether it’s on the treadmill or outside, the better off you are. Long slow walks are still OK but try to mix in some faster pace walks as well. Subjects were placed into one of four groups depending on how fast they could walk (mile/min. pace) and those speeds were:
Women – Walking pace (mile per min.)* <13.47 (fastest group), 13.47-14.87, 14.88-16.80, and ≥16.81 was considered the slowest group.
Men – Walking pace (mile per min.)* <13.49, 13.49-15.12, 15.13-17.05, ≥17.06
Williams PT, Thompson PD (2013). The Relationship of Walking Intensity to Total and Cause-Specific Mortality. Results from the National Walkers’ Health Study. PLoS ONE 8(11): e81098. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0081098