Walk Before We Run

Walking is the best exercise!

It isn’t the most efficient way to burn calories, but it is the easiest and most consistent way that we move.

A sedentary state is the opposite of walking. When we walk our bodies are physically active. This literally means we are moving our health in the right direction :).

Researchers looked at 47 articles on cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and all-cause mortality and published their study in the Annals of Internal Medicine in January 2015. They concluded that prolonged sedentary time was independently associated with harmful health outcomes regardless of physical activity.[1]

It seems that not moving at all is more strongly associated with bad health than exercising is with good health. In other words, most of our decisions on going to the gym are not as important as daily walking.

Most of us know exercise is good for us and many of us have made accommodations to get enough exercise. This is very important, and the impact of exercise cannot be understated. There are independent benefits from it.

It seems, however, that someone who exercises daily, but also must be sedentary for a prolonged period may still be at risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes and all-cause mortality.

The conclusion of this study to me is that while daily physical activity in the form of 20-30 minutes of exercise is incredibly beneficial, more important, is avoidance of sedentary time. Given daily exercise occurs for only a fraction of our 24-hour day, we must be more cognizant of our movement throughout the rest of our day.

Standing periodically during your day may help, but movement is better. The best form of movement is walking, because it is so easy to do. Here’s some of the reasons why:

  • Walking requires little effort.
  • You do not need a gym membership or gym clothing.
  • You will sweat only minimally if at all.
  • You can do it nearly anywhere.
  • You can talk on the phone while walking.
  • You can dictate notes or documents while walking.
  • You can listen to music, meditate, socialize, plan, take in the beauty, get some fresh air all

“Walking is man’s best medicine.” -Hippocrates

Per a smartphone user study, the average person around the globe clocks in at 4,961 steps per day (Americans at 4,774 steps).[2] How many steps are enough though?

In December of 2013, there was an article published in the Lancet that helps with this question. Researchers studied the number of daily steps we need to reduce the incidence of heart disease. The trial was called NAVIGATOR and looked at 9,306 adults from 40 countries.[3]

Researchers found that there was a 10% lower rate of heart problems for every additional 2,000 steps that a person walked to start the study compared with peers. For every additional 2,000 daily steps a person walked beyond their initial benefit, there was an added 8% drop in heart disease.

The study controlled for BMI and other potential variables, meaning this was the effect from steps alone!

The study illustrated an example. Person A walks 4,000 steps per day at the start of the study and makes no changes. Person B walks 6,000 steps per day at the start of the study (2,000 more than the person A) and increases their activity to 8,000 steps over the next 12 months (an additional 2,000 steps). By the end of the study, Person B would have a 18% (10% for initial 2,000 steps more + 8% for additional 2,000 steps added) lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Walking is the antidote for being sedentary. The more we all walk, the less disease we are at risk for, even without daily exercise. So, it seems we all must walk before we run. Have you had enough steps today? If you don’t have one already, consider a watch that counts your steps!

[1] REVIEWS |20 JANUARY 2015

Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalization in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Aviroop Biswas, BSc; Paul I. Oh, MD, MSc; Guy E. Faulkner, PhD; Ravi R. Bajaj, MD; Michael A. Silver, BSc; Marc S. Mitchell, MSc; David A. Alter, MD, PhD

[2] “Daily Step Counts: Which countries are most active-and which are least?” Shanika Gunaratna. CBS Nes. July 13th, 2017. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/which-countries-most-walking-least-walking/. Accessed June 16th, 2018 at 1126 am.


How Many Steps Does it Take to Avoid a Heart Attack? Researchers Find Out

By Alexandra Sifferlin @acsifferlin Dec 19th, 2013.


Walking. Photo by Liu Jiao on Unsplash. Downloaded June 14th at 308 pm.

Steps. Photo by Paul Dufour on Unsplash. Downloaded June 14th at 308

Leave a Comment