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How To Reap The Most Benefits From Midlife Walking (New Study Makes It Easier Than Ever!)

 Are you ready to walk? I hope so! That's why I'm giving you the latest study on walking and exactly how many daily steps you need to reap the health benefits. It's not 10,000 anymore, friend. (Yippee!)

This is great information to have, whether you're currently a walker or if you want to get started today. I'm going to talk about the speed and intensity of your steps and give you inexpensive ways to count your steps. Then I'm going to leave you with one simple way to start increasing your daily step count to achieve optimal health without hurting your beautiful body.

My midlife walking story

Before I dive in, let me tell you what happened to me recently. I moved a few weeks ago and my new walking route has a lot of rolling hills. I got excited because my previous route was quite flat. I thought this was going to take my walking to a new level.

So I come out of my front door hitting that first hill really hard. I gave it 100% energy going up and down each of those deceivingly gentle hills. After doing this for a couple of weeks, my knees were killing me. I was in so much pain that I had to take a few days off from doing anything because my knees were hurting so much.

As I was sitting at home, bummed out that I couldn't take my morning walks, I was listening to my favorite news podcast, The Newsworthy. The reporter said that studies have found you don't need the full 10,000 steps a day to receive health benefits. I got so excited that I had to do a deep dive on these statistics so I could share them with you.

The studies and statistics I pulled information from are linked in this post. This study by Lancet Public Health is one of the largest studies ever done on how many steps we need for health and longevity.

1. Your step count depends on your age

Data showed that if you're younger than 60, you can get the most benefits for your cardiovascular health and life expectancy by walking 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day.

If you're 60 years or older, you reap the most benefit with 6,000 to 8,000 steps a day.

So why are the numbers different for different ages? Two words: energy expenditure. All of these health outcomes are determined by the amount of energy you use. When you're older, you use more energy with every step. That means you don't need as many steps to achieve the same benefit.

And I can attest to this. I've noticed that when I'm walking, it doesn't take much for my Fitbit to let me know that I'm in cardio mode. I was so proud of myself. I thought, "Look how fit I'm getting. I'm hitting cardio so fast!"

Little did I realize, the only reason I'm hitting cardio that fast is because I'm older. It's an age thing. Maybe it's not something to be proud of, but I'm still getting my cardio in, right? ;)

Other studies beyond this particular study found that 8,000 steps a day lowered risks considerably for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, depression, many types of cancer and even sleep apnea.

When I found this out, I immediately changed my step goal on Fitbit.

8,000 (steps) is the sweet spot for increasing longevity, improving cardiovascular and lowering risks for disease.

Not 10,000, just 8,000. That's all you need to reap the benefits of walking. I don't know about you but if I'm not seeing any benefit beyond 8,000 steps, why would I set a goal higher than that?

Granted, going higher isn't going to hurt you. But if you're like me and have a physical issue like cranky knees or a bad back, or autoimmune issues, or an illness, this is truly a revelation. This is a revelation that can make all the difference.

It's so encouraging. It gives me hope. Knowing I'm doing good things for my overall health motivates me to want to keep doing good things for my overall health. Remember, Easy Ager, it's about consistency. I've been talking about that a lot lately because consistency is power.

Even if you're not hitting 8,000 or 6,000, or even 5,000 steps a day, if you're consistent, you're going to get there. You're going to start having a consistent habit that will benefit every cell in your body.

2. It doesn't matter how fast you take the steps

So all my efforts to push myself and keep that really fast pace were all for naught. Basically I was hurting my knees for no particular reason. (sigh...)

Now I'm taking things much slower. I still hit my daily steps, but it's not as intense. I'm starting to like the slower pace, but I'm not completely there yet. I'm really not. I like walking faster, but I can tell the slower pace is growing on me.

The other day I decided that I'd like my walking to become more of a meditative exercise, a meditation of awareness or mindfulness. And I can easily see it having a more spiritual basis. I'm not only caring for my physical health, I'm also caring for my spiritual health at the same time.

For me, I don't know how it can get much better than being outside enjoying God's creation while I'm enjoying God. How cool is that?

3. Counting your steps doesn't have to be difficult or expensive

If you already have a smart watch, use that while you're walking. But if you don't, here are a few less expensive options:

  • Download a free pedometer app on your phone.
  • On Amazon, most pedometers run $10 to $20.
  • Use a pedometer watch that requires no particular app on your phone; these watches run $20 to $25.

For the record, if you're wondering how far you've walked, you can use this as an estimate:

1,000 steps is about half a mile; 2,000 steps is about a mile. All of this depends on the length of your stride.

This is a pretty rough estimate, but think about it: if you walk 6,000 steps a day, you've walked three miles, and 8,000 steps is four miles. Not too shabby, right? If you do it, you should be proud of yourself because those are not small distances that you're walking.

4. Whether you walk regularly or you're just starting out, increase your daily steps gradually

We're Easy Agers, so we're all about the fun-sized actions, the little bite-sized nuggets of action. You can begin with small increases of 500 steps a day. That's a minimum. You may want to do more, but I would say give yourself a range for the week. Focus on increasing your daily step count 500 to 1,000 steps a day, and then see where you are at the end of the week. Choose whatever's right for you.

The main thing is to get moving, friend. Walking is so effective for improving bone density, strengthening your heart, relaxing your mind, and helping with pain management and building muscles in your body.

Amanda Paluch, a kinesiologist and public health expert at UMass Amherst and the lead author of the study, says, “It's not an all or nothing situation."

This article goes on to say, "Even just boosting daily step count to 5,000 — for 60 and older — and 7,000 — for younger folks — slashed mortality risk by 40%.”

How incredible is that?! You can reduce your mortality risk by 40% just through walking, even if you're not a walker. Who knows how many incredible health benefits you're going to enjoy? So get your beautiful body moving today! 

Grab your free copy of How To Reclaim Your Energy And Kick Midlife Blues To The Curb: A Simple Guide

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