How walking 10 minutes a day could help improve and prolong your life
Q. I have been a moderate runner for 40 years and managed to remain relatively unscathed with no major knee or joint problems and just have the beginning of an ache in my hip. Reassure me that walking is worthwhile. P.S. I am 75 years old. Many thanks. S.N.
Here is a two-step approach to your question. Step No. 1: Check out your hip ache with your physician. Step No. 2: Seriously consider walking.
As an age cohort, we are not doing so well in taking care of ourselves. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one in four adults age 50 and older do not engage in regular physical activity. That inactivity is highest in the south, followed by the Midwest, northeast and lowest in the west. Inactivity costs life quality and dollars. Those 50 and older account for $860 billion in healthcare costs annually. With physical activity, four out of five could prevent or manage their chronic conditions.
Here is an attention-grabbing New York Times headline: “Walking Just 10 Minutes a Day May Lead to a Longer Life” ( January 26, 2022). This is based on a recent study from the National Cancer Institute and Center for Disease Control revealing some extraordinary findings. Researchers asked 5,000 men and women between ages 40-85 to wear an activity monitor for a week and exercise an extra 10 minutes per day in addition to their current exercise. Developing several statistical “what if’s “scenarios, researchers checked for extra minutes of daily exercise and the number predicted to die prematurely. Ten minutes of additional exercise would result in avoiding over 111,000 deaths a year or seven percent of all annual deaths. An extra 30 minutes translated to just over 270,000 people who would avoid premature death a year or almost 17 percent of all typical annual deaths. (These are pre-pandemic numbers.) Note, walking counts as an exercise.
Here are a few additional findings that support the role of exercise and activity as referenced in the New York Times article.
• More than eight percent of all deaths in the U.S. are attributed to “inadequate levels of activity” according to a telling 2019 study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
• Men and women who exercised for at least 150 minutes per week, reduced their risk of premature death by at least 25 percent compared to people who exercise less according to a British study from 2015.
• Among sedentary participants, about 260 percent were more likely to die prematurely compared to those who exercise 30 minutes a day as reported in the British Journals of Medicine.
Couches have become the center of the universe and are often referred to as the quarantine companion and new best friend. They have become the go-to place to binge-watch on Netflix, read a book, complete office work, take a nap or have a pizza.
How can we get off the sofa and get motivated to take that extra 10-minute daily walk?
• Consider walking with a friend.
• Make it a meditation walk focusing on what you see, smell, observe and hear and breathe.
• Take your dog for a walk.
• Explore your neighborhood as though your walk is a first-time visit.
• Say hello to your neighbors.
• Count the number of different flowers you see.
• Think of yourself as having a chance of a lifetime; since that may just be the case.
Here are some practical reminders. Wear supportive shoes; avoid wearing ear pods so you can be alert to sounds of oncoming cars, skateboards and scooters. If it is dawn or dusk, wear something white or iridescent.
We know that physical activity also adds to our overall health, fitness and quality of life. It helps reduce the risk of chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, many types of cancer, depression and anxiety and even dementia, according to the Center for Disease Control. Of course, there are no guarantees since you still need to wear your seat belt.
Remember: Over the coming years, a little extra physical activity by each of us could potentially prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths.
S.N., thank you for your good question. As a former runner, I can relate to your question. Have wonderful walks, stay well and be kind to yourself and others.
Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging, employment and the new retirement with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at Helendenn@gmail.com. Visit Helen at HelenMdennis.com and follow her on facebook.com/SuccessfulagingCommunity.