Those who walk for a reason rate their health as better, a study has found.
Compared to leisurely walks, a brisk paced walk is a healthier option as it improves brain, heart, and lung function.
Past studies have found that fast walking helps burn more calories but more importantly increases longevity and lowers the risk of early death from heart disease.
This study reveals that people tend to walk faster when they have a purpose, such as walking to work and consider themselves healthier than slow walkers.
If the purpose of the trip is essential — like walking to the grocery shop or work — it makes people walk quicker, leading to better health outcomes when compared with casual strolls.
Dr Gulsah Akar, one of the study’s author, said:
“We found that walking for utilitarian purposes significantly improves your health, and that those types of walking trips are easier to bring into your daily routine.
So, basically, both as city planners and as people, we should try to take the advantage of this as much as possible.”
The research team collected data from the National Household Travel Survey on 125,885 American adults who reported the amount of time spent on walking for various purposes.
More than 500,000 trips were analysed and reasons for the trips included walking from home to get to work, walking from home to buy goods, social and recreational walks.
The data showed that walking trips for any reason and for any duration generally made people feel healthier than those who drove or used public transport.
People who walked an extra 10 minutes from home for work — for example, walking from home to the train station — were more likely to have a 6 percent better health score than those who walked for other purposes.
People who walked from home to the shops or for recreational activities scored 3 percent better.
On average, people who walked for work had a 2.7 miles per hour faster rate compared to other walking trips.
Recreational walking, for example, walking after dinner, showed a 2.5 miles per hour higher speed.
Moreover, people tend to have longer walking trips if they start from home than those walks that start from elsewhere.
Dr Akar said:
“I was thinking the differences would not be that significant, that walking is walking, and all forms of walking are helpful.
And that is true, but walking for some purposes has significantly greater effect on our health than others.”
It seems that replacing this activity with the sedentary part of our day, say commuting on foot instead of driving, would give a healthier feeling.
Dr Akar added:
“That means going to a gym or a recreation center aren’t the only ways to exercise.
It’s an opportunity to put active minutes into our daily schedules in an easy way.”
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in the Journal of Transport & Health (Pae & Akar, 2020).