Walking provides a bevy of heart health benefits from lowering blood pressure and cholesterol to reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes. New research shows it could reduce the risk of heart disease, too.
A paper presented at the American College of Cardiology annual scientific session recently followed 89,270 participants for 10 years and found that walking at a moderate pace for at least 40 minutes 2–3 times per week was associated with a lower risk of heart failure than their sedentary peers.
While that effect is not unique to post-menopausal women, researchers focused on that specific population because the risk of heart failure increases with age; women between the ages of 75–84 are three times more apt to have heart failure as women ages 65–74.
This was the first study to assess the impact of walking frequency, duration and speed on heart disease among women over age 50.
As researchers drilled down the data, they discovered each element of a walking routine had a different impact on heart health: Women who walked at least twice a week lowered their risk of heart failure up to 25% compared with less frequent walkers; those who walked for 40 minutes or more lessened their risk 21–25% over women who took shorter walks and women who walked at an average or fast pace saw their risk of heart failure decline between 26–38% compared with their peers who strolled at a slower pace.
Rasla notes that the combination of speed, frequency, and duration is the trifecta for lowering heart disease risk, noting that these are the keys to experiencing an overall benefit from an exercise program.
Post-menopausal women aren’t the only ones whose hearts benefit from a brisk walk.
In 2013, researchers examined data from the National Walkers’ Health Study, which included men and women between the ages of 41–73 and found that a moderate-intensity walking workout provided significant heart health benefits, lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and protecting against coronary heart disease. The results were similar to the reductions in risk experienced by runners.
In both studies, the more often walkers laced up their sneakers (and the longer they spent walking) the greater the heart health benefits they experienced.
Rasla calls walking an “easy, feasible and affordable” workout with a significant return on investment, noting, “You can’t underestimate its benefit to your heart health.”