Who says exercise always has to be hard-core in order for it to be effective? Something as simple as walking can be easy to overlook as a powerful way to stay healthy (especially for our hearts), but but according to a new study we shouldn’t underestimate its value. Especially if you’re a woman.
Spanish researchers evaluated over 13,000 men and 19,000 women who participated in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. All were between the ages of 29 and 69 and stuck with the study for at least 10 years. During that time, the researchers had the participants report how many hours a week they spent exercising, as well as their medical history, lifestyles and diet.
In the end, what they found was interesting: Women who walked for at least three-and-a-half hours a week (that’s just 35 minutes a day) had a lower risk of stroke compared with those who didn’t walk regularly. What’s even more interesting is the fact that there was no link was found between men’s stroke risk and walking.
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, Lenox Hill Hospital’s director of women and heart disease, who was not involved in the study, explained her take on this to CBS News:
What women can take away from this is there is something that you can do that is very simple, very easy and not too time consuming to protect your cardiovascular health status, and that is walking.
It can be easy to assume that a stroll around the block will help cut our risk of strokes, but it’s not just the walking that does this. According to a prior study, the pace you walk also counts. In the Journal Stroke in 2010, Harvard researchers found that walking at a pace of three miles an hour for at least two hours a week was linked with a lower stroke risk in women. That equates to a 20 minute mile, which is still a pretty comfortable pace.
But, just because a study says walking can lower your risk of stroke, doesn’t mean that should be our sole source of exercise. Remember, the CDC still says we need to do muscle-strengthen exercises at least two days a week (like weight training for all major muscle groups) and that the recommended 150 minutes a week of exercise can be mixed with more vigorous workouts like running. And don’t forget the importance of stretching through activities like yoga.
Also important when getting our hearts healthy is the consumption of a nutritious diet. Eating fresh, whole foods has been proven to lower our risk of stroke. In fact, another study published in Circulation found that people who eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fish decrease their chances of dying from a heart attack or stroke by 35 percent.
In the end, walking is great for us. It’s simple, doesn’t require a gym membership, and virtually anyone can do it. Just keep in mind that total heart health requires a bit more.