It sometimes feels like if you want to truly make a difference in your health, you need to hit the gym every day or make every workout as intense as possible. But new research suggests that simply walking more can have a real impact on lifespan. In fact, people in the study who walked just 150 minutes a week or more had a 20% lower risk of premature death, compared to those who walked less.
Even for people who didn’t meet those 150 recommended minutes of activity per week, walking at least a little bit was still better than getting no exercise at all, found the American Journal of Preventive Medicine study.
Lead author Alpa Patel, a researcher with the American Cancer Society, says the study is good news for anyone who worries that walking doesn’t count as exercise.
“In our study, close to 95% of people who engaged in any physical activity did some walking—but for half of those people, walking was the only moderate to vigorous exercise they got,” she says. “Now we can see that it really does have real benefits.”
The study, which followed nearly 140,000 people for an average of 13 years, compared adults who got no physical activity at all, those whose only exercise was walking, and those who walked plus did other types of exercise. It also compared people who got more than the recommended 150 minutes of activity per week and those who got less.
The people in the study were mostly senior citizens, with an average age of 70. During the study’s follow-up period, about 43,000 of them died.
Compared to people who reported getting some physical activity at the start of the study (but less than two hours a week), those who reported getting no activity at all were 26% more likely to have died. Those who got between 2.5 and five hours of physical activity a week, on the other hand, had a 20% lower risk of death. Read more