Slow Walking vs Fast Walking: A Cardiologist’s Verdict
Health and nutrition experts agree that walking is a good exercise that yields great health benefits. And, studies have supported those claims. But what has been debated over the years is which type of walking is the best: slow or fast.
Some experts like Dr. Michael Weinrauch, a New Jersey-based cardiology specialist, see benefits in both types of walking. First of all, Dr. Weinrauch says, slow walking or fast walking is better than not walking at all. And secondly, he says, there is no wrong way to walk.
After all, even the smallest walking intervals have been shown to improve cardiovascular health, strengthen bones and muscles, reduce body fat, and ease joint pain. To start to see these and other health benefits, however, Dr. Weinrauch recommends a minimum of 10 uninterrupted minutes of walking.
The Benefits of Slow Walking
When it comes to developing a walking regimen, Dr. Weinrauch recommends walking at a normal pace for 30 minutes a day uninterrupted on most days of the week. However, Dr. Weinrauch recommends that people who live a sedentary lifestyle slowly build themselves up to walking 30 minutes a day.
It’s possible that the positive results from walking can motivate sedentary people to become more active. Research shows that people with sedentary lifestyles are at increased risk of premature death. But, walking could help them reduce this risk. For example, a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that inactive individuals who walk for about 20 minutes each day can cut their risk of death by up to 30 percent.
According to Dr. Weinrauch, walking slowly on a regular basis can also improve cardiovascular fitness, decrease stress levels, and may also prevent dementia.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco performed a study involving 6,000 women, ages 65 and older, and discovered that those who walked more had a lower memory decline. According to the study, women who walked 2.5 miles a day had a 17 percent decline in memory compared to a 25 percent decline in women who walked less than a half-mile per week.
The Benefits of Power Walking
Power walking, also known as speed walking, involves walking at a brisk pace with moderate or vigorous intensity. So, how do you know whether you are walking with moderate or vigorous intensity?
Dr. Weinrauch says with moderate intensity, you would be able to talk, but not sing the words to your favorite song. Similarly, with vigorous intensity, you would need to pause for a breath after saying only a few words.
One bonus of moderate to vigorous activity is that both meet the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) physical activity guidelines for adults. HHS recommends:
- 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity
- 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
- An equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
So, to hit your walking goal, Dr. Weinrauch recommends power walking for 30 minutes per day, five days a week.
Take On a Walking Challenge
If you have incorporated walking into your daily exercise routine, you may want to challenge yourself by finding a new walking route. For example, rather than walking on a flat surface, like a sidewalk, find an area with hills or walk on a beach.
Brisk walking, and more specifically walking on an incline helps you burn calories, as well as build and strengthen the muscles from your calves up to your back, says Roberto Mandje, coach for the New York Road Runners, a non-profit running organization based in New York City. This type of walk also doubles as a strength training session, he says.
Walking on the beach in a calm and relaxing state may not look like a challenge, but walking on sand is actually harder than walking on a paved sidewalk. However, it has a number of benefits, including working your muscles and tendons more, improving your balance and coordination, and it helps you to burn more calories.
A 2014 study, published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, found that exercising on sand can reduce a walker’s risk of injury because the lower impact of sand can limit muscle damage and muscle soreness.
Common Signs That Show You Need To Walk
How do you know if you are too sedentary and need to walk, or in some cases, walk more?
One of the most common signs is persistent stiffness, soreness, or joint pain. Feeling stiff and achy often comes from a lack of movement, particularly if there are no underlying health conditions or injuries, according to Justin Meissner, a personal trainer certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).
Exercising can create soreness but so does sitting, said Lisa Herrington, a NASM-certified personal trainer and founder of FIT House Davis in Davis, California. People who are too sedentary often have an aching back or stiffness that lasts all day. “When we’re not moving enough, things just start to stick,” Herrington says.
Besides feeling sore and stiff, there are other common signs showing that you may need to start moving more::
- Lethargy. Feeling tired and sleepy all the time may show that you are not getting the natural energy boost that exercise provides.
- Unexpected weight gain. Consistent eating and lack of exercise can mean that you are not burning enough calories through daily movement.
- Poor posture. According to Herrington, without the core and upper-body strength needed to maintain a healthy posture, you might begin to slouch or hunch over at the shoulders. Strength training and core work can improve poor posture.
- Trouble doing daily tasks. If you are otherwise healthy, but get easily winded, tired or sore when you stand, sit, carry groceries, or even open jars—you may be a good candidate for more exercise.
According to Meissner, a simple way to remedy this is to exercise. “Any movement—as long as it’s safe movement—will have [a] positive effect,” Meissner said.