Despite innumerable exercises, dance forms, fitness bootcamps and other physical activities none can beat the advantages provided by the simplest yet beneficial physical activity-walking. Walking is the only form of exercise feasible for a 1-year-old baby to an 80-year-old individual who loves to stay fit and healthy. I have repeatedly reinstated the benefits of walking in several of my earlier articles references of which are available at www.firsteatright.com. While the method of exercise remains constant, it is the benefits that act as variables alternating between several of these.
A new study presented at the American College of Cardiology shows that walking for at least 40 minutes couple of times a week at an average or fast pace is associated with almost a 25% dip in heart failure risk in post-menopausal women. Incidentally, the benefits remain the same irrespective of the woman’s body weight or her involvement in several other exercise forms besides walking.
Presently, more than 6.5 million people suffer from heart failure owing to which the heart becomes too weak to pump sufficient blood to meet body needs. These figures are expected to rise by 46% by 2030, resulting in more than 8 million individuals suffering from heart failure. As a person’s age increases, his/her risk of heart failure too increases-women aged 75-84 years are three times likelier to suffer from heart failure compared to women who are 65-74 years. Sadly, medical advances that save a person’s life are to be blamed primarily because many individuals survive a heart attack and therefore face a greater risk of heart failure later in life.
Missing the Concept
Physical activity lowers the risk of heart failure but there is a widespread misconception that pursuing only walking is never sufficient to meet this need. Walking has got many benefits in its kitty-it is an easily accessible form of exercise as well as has equal benefits as other exercise forms in lowering risk of heart failure risk. Walking becomes especially beneficial for older women who might feel awkward enrolling in a gym or joining a Zumba class as well for those who suffer from time constraint.
The study analyzed more than 89,000 women for over 10 years and examined the benefits of walking by parsing the effects of walking frequency, duration and speed. This also stands as the first study to specifically focus on the risk of heart failure among women above the age of 50.
Based on frequency, speed and duration, women’s walking behavior was categorized accordingly. A woman’s overall energy expenditure was calculated based on Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET). Individuals having higher values MET values were said to be at a 25% lesser risk of disease. Hence, frequency, duration and speed. Those who walked for 40 minutes were anywhere between 21 and 25 percent at a lower risk of diseases while those who went for an average or fast-pace walk showed some 26-38% lower risk of heart failure compared to those women who walked at a much slower pace. The beauty of the study is that results remained the same irrespective of the ethnicity, age categories and baseline body weights applicable to almost all women above the age group of 50. The study requested participants to self-report on their smoking, alcohol habits, family history, hormone use and overall level of physical activity.
Despite scientific and technological advancements in cardiovascular health, benefits are not positively distributed and depend on the individual’s ethnicity, race and income.